Papua New Guinea claimed seven gold medals on the opening day of the Pacific Games powerlifting competition here, while Nauru took the other two available.
At least one gold medal was guaranteed for Papua New Guinea with home athletes Hitolo Kevau and Navili Benson the only two competitors in the women’s 47 kilogram category.
Kevau registered a winning total of 240kg, squatting 95kg before bench pressing 45kg and deadlifting 100kg, to finish five clear of her compatriot Benson.
There were also opening session wins for Dobi Mea and Belinda Umang in the women’s 52kg and 57kg categories respectively, as well as Kalau Andrew in the men’s 59kg.
Mea’s total of 307.5kg saw her come out on top in a three-way battle with Nauru’s Febrose Tsiode and Tahiti’s Claudine Yu Hing, who missed out on a bronze medal after failing to lift in either of the three squat rounds.
Nauru’s Ivy Rose Jones provided Umang’s only opposition but she was unable to match the crowd favourite, finishing 50.5kg behind on 240kg.
Andrew faced a more difficult task in a category that contained six lifters, however, a total of 462.5kg proved to be enough to fend off Kiribati’s Nantei Nikora by a 2.5kg margin, with New Caledonia’s Philippe La completing the podium on 445kg.
The day’s second session delivered yet more success for the host nation as Melissa Tikio won the women’s 63kg category and Anderson Mangela took top honours in the men’s 74kg class.
Tikio’s total of 340kg, comprising a 120kg squat, 80kg bench press and 140kg deadlift, saw her finish comfortably ahead of Fiji’s Sainimere Abariga and Nauru’s Delia Dabwido in second and third respectively.
Mangela was made to work harder for his success thanks to a strong challenge from Taggart Duburiya, but still ended up 18kg better off than the man from Nauru, and 113kg clear of fellow countryman Kenny Naime in third.
Sandwiched between Tikio and Mangela’s wins was Starron Slade Dowabobo’s victory for Nauru in the men’s 66kg category.
A 215kg squat was followed by a 125kg bench press and 235kg deadlift, as Dowabobo accumulated a total of 575kg to beat Papua New Guinea’s Henry Kelo and Brown Bolong to gold.
In the last session of the day, Papua New Guinea’s flagbearer at the Opening Ceremony of the Games, Linda Pulsan, set a masters world record on her way to winning the women’s 72kg crown with a total of 476kg.
The 44-year-old squatted 183.5kg to reach the mark, having failed at last month's World Championships in Salo, Finland and could have added an open world record had she not been disqualified in her attempt at 186.5kg.
Nauru’s Eibon Jerusha Mau came second on 462.5kg, while Asenate Manoa earned Tuvalu their first medal of the Games with 340kg.
Papua New Guinea had to settle for silver though in the men’s 83kg as Livingstone Sokoli finished second to Nauru’s Deamo Baguga.
Sokoli fell 60kg short of Baguga’s 690kg total and was followed in the final standings by New Caledonia’s Frederick Warsidi on 600kg.
The second and final day of Pacific Games powerlifting action takes place tomorrow.
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