Pacific Games 2015 Sport

Yao (PNG) Wows Home Crowd with First Gold of Athletics


By James Cowling and Joanna Lester, Port Moresby 2015 Games News Service

PORT MORESBY, July 13 – Papua New Guinea’s Sapolai Yao raced home to win the men’s 3000m steeplechase gold, the first medal of the Port Moresby 2015 athletics program, in front of a delighted crowd at BSP Stadium on Monday night.

As Yao ran the final stretch, the crowd shouted, “PNG, PNG, PNG”. He finished in 9 minutes, 38.89 seconds.

Yao, who came last in the same event at the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games, said he was thrilled to win on home soil.

“I prepared for a long time, I deserved to win,” Yao said.

Pascal Gacon (NCL) pole vaulted to a new Games record of 3.70m to win gold in the women’s event.

“I’m super happy to get this record. This is my first Games, so it’s unbelievable,” Gacon said.

Sharon Firisua (SOL) won the women’s 5000m in a Pacific Games record time of 18 minutes, 20.09 seconds beating PNG’s Rama Kumilgo and Mary Kua and into second and third respectively.

“I’m really glad (to have set a new Games record). I put all my commitment into this, but this race was very slow for me because I’m used to competing in very fast races,” Firisua said.

In men’s javelin, Fiji’s Leslie Copeland outclassed the other competitors to win gold with a throw of 70.31 metres.

Copeland said he couldn’t have asked for more.

“I’m happy with that. It’s 10 metres short of my personal best but I’ve been injured,” Copeland said.

“I had a rotator cuff injury in my throwing (right) shoulder, and I only trained for three weeks prior to this. I’m happy that I’ve helped my country.”

Milika Tuivanuavou (FIJ) won  the women’s shot put with a throw of 14.59 metres on her final attempt.

“I just came out here to do my best and I’m glad it worked out but really I was going for the gold,” Tuivanuavou said.

In the 100m heats, Fijian record holder Ratu Tabakaucoro won the first heat and didn’t disappoint.

Tabakaucoro finished with the fastest time of the night, 10.50 seconds and said he hope to better that in Tuesday’s final.

Home crowd heroine Toea Wisil (PNG) suffered a stressful race in the women’s 100m heats. She failed to hear that there had been a false start and almost reached the finish line before realising that she and her competitors had been called back.

On the second attempt, Wisil won in a canter.

Athletics continues on Tuesday at 10:00 at BSP Stadium.

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