By PATRICIA KEAMO
BOASTING the biggest contingent, Team Papua New Guinea are set for today’s opening ceremony of the Pacific Mini Games in Saipan, Northern Marianas, says chef de mission Kila Dick.
National women’s va’a team skipper Ailima Kini will lead the team of 119 athletes and officials as the flag bearer at the Oleai Sports Complex.
“We have brought over a very strong contingent made up of our elite athletes from back home, the United States (US) and Australia to compete in five sports,” Dick said.
Tennis, va’a, weightlifting, athletics and golf competitors have been training since their arrival in Saipan on Sunday.
Tennis was the first sport to begin matches yesterday at the American Memorial Park, starting with the doubles matches. The singles matches are scheduled for next week.
The team consist of Pacific champions Abigail Tere-Apisah and her nieces, Patricia and Violet, who are focused on refining their doubles combinations.
The men’s team of Mark Gibbons, Eddie Mera and Mathew Stubbings are gelling well as they look to win medals.
Team manager Marcia Tere-Apisah said Saipan’s weather was similar to that of PNG.
“We’re looking to win some singles medals,” she said.
“Hopefully, gold and silver for the men’s events.”
Weightlifting veteran Dika Toua is expected to bag some medals for PNG when she competes on Monday and Wednesday.
“Toua has shown how much of an influence she is among the Pacific community here in Saipan,” Dick said.
“Her energy and stamina are motivation enough for fellow athletes to push through.”
The men’s and women’s va’a teams are motivated to start their events on Monday at the 13 Fishermen Memorial Monument Beach with Kini’s appointment as flag bearer boosting their morale.
Team manager Diavabu Boge Morea said it would motivate them to push hard during the Games.
Rosalyn Taufa-managed golfers Xavier Ishmael, Cassie Koma and Gideon Tikili are keeping tabs on their challengers at the Coral Ocean Resort course before playing the 18 holes on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, athletics is targeting at least half of its 39 athletes and five para-athletes to bag medals with PNG’s elite prospects eyeing dominant track and field performances at the Oleai Sports Complex from Tuesday.
The athletes have had a solid lead-up to Saipan with groups preparing in the US, Australia and at the National Sports Institute in Goroka.
Team manager Kylie Martins said the team were looking good under the guidance of national track legends Subul Babo, Peter Pulu and Nelson Stone.
“We have a lot of events in which they’re going to compete,” she said.
By PATRICIA KEAMO