© Photo Aron Hayes, Pacific Games News Service.

Another thrilling day unfolded at the Pacific Games. Two new swimming records, surprises, and multiple medals for lesser-known swimmers. In other sports, quarterfinal matchups are starting to take shape, while New Caledonia continues to lead the medal tally.

The most exciting day of Pacific swimming took place at the Honiara Aquatic Center on Wednesday. Olivia Borg from Samoa claimed gold in the women's 50m freestyle with a time of 26.65 seconds. Malou Douillard (New Caledonia) with 26.88 and Anahira McCutcheon (Fiji) with 26.91 completed the podium. After her victory, speaking with the Pacific Games News Service, Borg said, "It feels incredible to represent my culture, and my grandmother passed away last year while I was at the Commonwealth Games, so I will definitely dedicate all these medals to her."

In the men's 50m freestyle, it was all about Fiji. With a double medal win, they secured the 1st and 2nd positions thanks to the outstanding performance of Hansel McCaig, who clinched gold with a time of 23.22 seconds, while his compatriot David Young (23.29) took silver. The podium was completed by Hector Langkilde from Samoa (23.37), causing a surprise by leaving New Caledonia without any medals after winning gold and silver in Samoa 2019.

McCaig's gold is significant. Not only is it his first individual gold in any Pacific Games, but it also marked the first gold for a country that tirelessly supported them in the stands. "As soon as we touched, the loudest people were the Fijians, and I always thank them for coming out to support us, whether we win or not," said a delighted McCaig about his Fijian fans in swimming.

Samoa’s Olivia Borg scooped gold  - Photos: Aron Hayes, Pacific Games News Service.
Samoa’s Olivia Borg scooped gold - Photos: Aron Hayes, Pacific Games News Service.

In the women's 200m butterfly, the predictions held true. Lara Grangeon-De-Villele from New Caledonia won gold with an eight-second lead and a final time of 2 minutes and 15.18 seconds. Olivia Borg (2:23.21) from Samoa secured silver in her first final with Grangeon-De-Villele, and Deotille Videau from Tahiti (2:23.48) took bronze.

To the pride of the Northern Mariana Islands, Isaiah Aleksenko won the first gold in swimming in the men's 200m butterfly with a time of 2 minutes and 5.86 seconds, while Tahitian Nael Roux (2:09.52) took silver and Baptiste Savignac (2:11.80) won bronze.

In the 200m backstroke, Pacific Games records were broken in both the women's and men's races by Lara Grangeon-De-Villele and John-William Dabin from New Caledonia. Grangeon-De-Villele set a new Pacific Games record of 2 minutes and 19.62 seconds in the heats on the way to winning gold. Her winning performance was almost as impressive (2:19.71). Salani Sa’aga (2:28.93) from Samoa won silver, and Videau (2:29.06) completed the podium.

In the men's event, the 200m backstroke also saw a record-breaking performance: John-William Dabin from New Caledonia took 2 minutes and 6.83 seconds, setting a new record that secured him the gold after a surprising defeat in the men's 50m freestyle. Chrissander Cerda (2:08.75) also from New Caledonia finished with silver, and Rohutu Teahui from Tahiti (2:10.37) won bronze.

The women's 800m freestyle saw Grangeon-De-Villele take her third gold of the night with a final time of 9 minutes and 10.24 seconds. Maiana Flament (9:22.21) from New Caledonia won silver, and Lili Paillisse (9:27.91) from Tahiti took bronze.

After completing a perfect day and raising her medal count to 7 golds, the swimmer said, "I am very happy because it's a good night. The weather is good, so I won these medals, and I know my other teammates in other sports are also winning gold medals."

The super day ended with the mixed relay 4 x 50m, where New Caledonia redeemed themselves from the modest performances according to predictions. They secured gold with a time of 1:51.62, ahead of Fiji (1:52.01) and Tahiti (1:52.30). It's not that the leaders in the medal tally did poorly; it's just that more was expected. Nevertheless, they concluded the second day at the Aquatic Center with 30 medals (15 golds, nine silvers, six bronzes). Tahiti has 17 (one gold, six silvers, and 10 bronzes), Fiji has nine (one gold, five silvers, and three bronzes), and Samoa has six (two golds, three silvers, and one bronze). The Cook Islands (two golds and one bronze) and the Northern Mariana Islands (one gold and two bronzes) have three medals each, while the Federated States of Micronesia have two golds, and American Samoa (silver) and Papua New Guinea (bronze) have one medal each.

In team sports such as volleyball, Samoa (3-0 against Tonga), New Caledonia (3-0 against the Solomon Islands), Papua New Guinea (3-2 against Tahiti), and American Samoa (3-1 against Tuvalu) reach the quarterfinals of men's volleyball. In the women's category, the quarterfinals started with Tahiti defeating Tuvalu (3-0), American Samoa defeating Samoa (3-2), and New Caledonia defeating the hosts (3-0).

In another team sport like basketball, qualifying playoff rounds have begun. In Group A, Guam claimed victory, while New Caledonia triumphed in Group B. The clash between Fiji and Tonga in the women's division was exciting despite Fiji's significant lead with an impressive score of 75-46.

Tonga Vs. Fiji in basketball -  Photos: Junior Wasi, Pacific Games News Service.
Tonga Vs. Fiji in basketball - Photos: Junior Wasi, Pacific Games News Service.

In the men's division, New Caledonia secured a hard-fought victory of 87-78 over Papua New Guinea (PNG). In the quarterfinal clash, Samoa and Tahiti faced each other in a closely contested match that the Samoans managed to tilt in their favor with a score of 81-71, earning a spot in the semifinals. It is important to note that this tournament serves as the official qualifier for the Oceania Region, determining which teams will advance to the pre-qualifying rounds of the FIBA Asia Cup.

In sailing, New Caledonia continued its dominance at the DC Park in Honiara. Sailor Samuel Launay maintains the top spot in the men's lightweight sailing category (windsurfing). In the men's heavyweight sailing category (windsurfing), Nueva Caledonia's fellow sailor Laurent Cali also leads the standings, with victories in all his races so far.

In women's individual sailing, Australian Evie Saunders continues to hold the top spots in all four races so far, with Fijian Sophia Morgan in second place and Australian Ellen Sampson in third place.

Finally, in team sports, Tonga stood out with a silver in rugby 9s, securing a silver that is worth gold for a team that until a year ago didn't play at all and five years ago was in doubt in their country regarding whether women should compete in that discipline.

Most of Tonga’s team only started playing rugby league this year, but they won a shock silver medal at Sol2023  -  Photos: Charlie Ando Bitikolo, Pacific Games News Service
Most of Tonga’s team only started playing rugby league this year, but they won a shock silver medal at Sol2023 - Photos: Charlie Ando Bitikolo, Pacific Games News Service

Individual and mixed doubles tennis competitions began with a large number of debutants in the Games at the National Tennis Center in Honiara. 18 singles and two mixed doubles matches were played in intense heat in a discipline that will award medals over the weekend.