9 Jul 2015

Sport: Tokelau's only Pacific Games athlete ready

11:19 am on 9 July 2015

Tokelau's only competitor at the Pacific Games - 33-year-old squash player Sam Iasona - only picked up a racket for the first time a little over a year ago.

Pacific Games Papua New Guinea

The sun sets at the athletes village in Papua New Guinea at the 2015 Pacific Games. Photo: Lee Maoate-Cox

The country's sports federation says its lack of representation is down to it not having had enough time to prepare for the games, and its athletes not being available.

Tokelau's national legal advisor Lise Suveinakama says the blunder will prove a valuable lesson for the nation, which has a population of about 1400.

She says it is important that athletes are better organised and prepared for regional competitions.

Squash player Sam Iasona, who works as a line mechanic in New Zealand, says he's thrilled to be able to travel to Papua New Guinea.

Some of his workmates have even chipped in to fly him to Port Moresby.

"What started as something that wasn't too serious, I just started playing squash about a year ago and then one of the cousins suggested perhaps I should play squash in the Pacific Games. I'll probably be playing a lot of guys who've been playing a lot longer than I have so I've been training hard for the last year and a bit."

The men's squash competition begins today.

After being in a similar position, Vanuatu's Mary Ramel is already planning her next table tennis event after narrowly missing out on gold in the women's Para singles final.

Vanuatu's Mary Ramel narrowly missing out on gold in the women's table tennis Para singles final at the Pacific Games.

Vanuatu's Mary Ramel narrowly missing out on gold in the women's table tennis Para singles final at the Pacific Games. Photo: RNZ / Vinnie Wylie

Competing in a major tournament for the first time, Ramel twice took the lead against New Caledonia's Delphine Andre before losing the deciding set 11-6 at the Caritas Stadium.

Her coach, Anolyn Lulu, says Ramel's preparation was far from ideal and up until November she hadn't picked up a table tennis bat in years.

"After Cyclone Pam, which damaged our training venue, they just started training just one month before we got here so the match was very tough for her. I believe in Mary - she can do better than that - just the crowd and all this it is an inexperience for her [because] she's never participated in any table tennis event before. The surrounding, the environment itself also contributed to her defeat. Despite that, she played well and she will go back and home and continue to train and play in upcoming events".

New Caledonia also won the gold medal in the men's Para singles event, with Fiji winning the men's and women's seated Para events.

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