Fiji Swimming is poised to make a splash with a team featuring mostly newcomers, with a few having Pacific Games experience.
“Unfortunately, we have three survivors from the last Games. So everyone else, this is their first Games,” Coach Willie Elaisa says of the team’s composition. “Most of our swimmers are locals, so it has always been the local mix we have at home. We have four swimmers who are overseas based.”
Notable returnees include Robert Rabua, Hansel McCaig, and Rosemary Rova, with Rova gearing up for her third Games, and McCaig as well as Rabua making their second outing in the regional competition.
The team, fortunate to have arrived early, utilised the time to bond and acclimatised to the unfamiliar heat of Honiara which even the locals describe as hotter than usual.
“Most of them we just met at the airport to fly over so we are lucky that we have been here early, so they have had time to bond, get to know each other, and do some relay work in the water. Everybody is selected based on they are the best that Fiji has to offer. Anything can happen in a court, so yes we have swimmers who can win medals, but it all comes down to what happens on the day. We are hoping that they can do it if everything goes their way. We will see day by day.
“It’s hotter here than we are used to, but we are lucky so far that nobody is feeling the effects of the heat. It does mean we are being more responsible, be alert, and manage them.”
Reflecting on the squad’s goals for the Games, Elaisa shared, “I think we have set ourselves a goal to match what was achieved in the last Games. To even beat what was achieved, again whatever happens at the competition, we will see whether we do achieve our goals.”
Fiji Swimming finished second behind New Caledonia at the 2019 Pacific Games.
McCaig, a key figure in the squad, spoke highly of the squad’s strength and camaraderie.
“This is probably the strongest team we are taking to the Games. The team is coming together collectively. The team is relaxed, good vibes in the team.”
McCaig, seeded well in multiple events including the 50 Free, 50 Back, and 100 Free is feeling optimistic about his performance, saying, “Looking good.”
He acknowledges the importance of rest, especially in the unique climate of the Solomon Islands.
“Hydration is very important, especially in the Solomon Islands. Rest, especially. It is important to have a good rest. Go in with an open mindset and go with the training,” he advises.
In terms of competition, the team anticipates challenges from other teams including New Caledonia.
Elaisa said: “As always, New Caledonia, but we think every other team has been working on their swimming program. I think swimming, athletics, and weightlifting have the most medals on offer so I think everyone else is starting to realise that.”
Swimming starts around 11 am tomorrow (FJT).