Fiji finished sixth in the 17th Pacific Games, a departure from their usual top-five standing since the inaugural regional games in 1963.
Despite falling short of their top-three target, Team Fiji Chef De Mission Ajay Ballu expressed positivity, pointing out the youth of the team and the four-year preparation ahead.
“But there’s always another chance. I told the team it doesn’t stop here. We continue. We have got another four years to prepare. We do the hard work. This is a young team that came in. This is our future, so we continue doing what we do best.”
Fiji’s campaign at the 17th edition of Games witnessed several firsts and notable achievements.
Flag bearers Taniela Rainibogi and Yeshnil Karan secured three Gold medals each in Weightlifting and Athletics.
Rainibogi, named the Games’ Sportsman, achieved a clean sweep in the Men’s 109kg weightlifting category on November 24, also claiming the Oceania Gold. Karan followed suit in the second week with Gold in the Men’s 10,000m, 5000m, and the 3000m Steeplechase events.
Other accomplishments included the men’s basketball team’s upset victory over favorites Guam, successful Gold medal defenses by the 7s and hockey teams, and significant wins in various disciplines, such as paddler Elenoa Vateitei’s historic Gold in Fiji Va’a.
Deborah Bulai’s impressive throw in the 4kg Hammer Throw and Boxing Fiji’s first Gold in two decades added to the achievements likewise Rusiate Matai’s hardwork turning his Coca Cola Games Bronze Medal into a Pacific Games Gold with a new personal best. Swimmers Kelera Mudunasoko and Hansel McCaig contributed to Fiji’s medal tally, with Mudunasoko earning the country’s first medal in the 200m Female Breaststroke event, and McCaig clinching a Gold medal two days later—the first of Fiji’s 21 Gold medals at the Solomon Games.
The final batch of Team Fiji athletes returns to Fiji today after two weeks of competition in scorching Honiara that started on November 19.
Fiji has only won the PGames once, in the inaugural year in 1963.
Meanwhile, Pacific Games Council President Vidya Lakhan commended Solomon Islands for hosting a successful event, acknowledging their timely delivery and world-class facilities, and surpassing expectations.
“They delivered a game which every Solomon Islander should be proud of,” Lakhan said during the closing ceremony last night. “We leave behind a changed Honiara, perhaps a more modern Honiara, wonderful sporting facilities, and a large band of Solomon Islanders trained in delivering major sporting events.”
The Sol2023 Pacific Games ended with a colourful closing ceremony, marking the end of a two-week competition featuring over 5000 athletes across 24 Pacific nations.
New Caledonia topped the medal tally with 82 gold, 57 silver and 58 bronze medals.