Just when it seemed like Australia was securing the second position in a steadily expanding medal tally for New Caledonia, Tahiti competes fiercely across multiple sports managing to surpass the oceanic giant in medal count.

Tahiti dominated the Sol2023 triathlon event in both divisions to clinch a double victory (silver and gold) in Honiara. Salome De Barthez De Marmorieres from Tahiti secured her first gold in her third participation in the Pacific Games (32 minutes and 51 seconds). Her Tahitian teammate, Maidi Susset, finished in 33:37 to claim the silver, while Celine Hirzel from New Caledonia took the bronze with a time of 34:29.

Following this outstanding performance, the gold medalist told the Pacific Games News Service, "I am very happy because eight years ago (in Port Moresby 2015), I did the Pacific Games triathlon and had a flat tire (on the bike). Four years ago, in Samoa 2019, I finished second behind someone who was better. And today, I am very happy to win the gold, and I believe I deserve it. For me, it was gold or nothing today."

The men's final had the same national anthem at the award ceremony. Benjamin Zorgnotti defended the gold he won in Samoa 2019 after completing the race in 29:26. The silver went to another Tahitian, Jean Marc Rimaud, who finished in 29:37, accompanying Mathieu Szalamacha (New Caledonia, 30:31) on the podium.

Another key athlete contributing to Tahiti's surpassing of Australia was Teanavai Pérez (only 15 years old), who secured the gold in the National Stadium of Honiara with a jump of 1.63 meters. Rellie Kaputin from Papua New Guinea won silver, and Laisani Hacere from Fiji took the bronze (both with 1.60 meters, but PNG finished second due to fewer faults).

On another note, Samoa lived up to expectations and won the Touch Rugby in both men's and women's categories, defeating PNG in both finals at DC Park. Fiji finished third after overcoming Niue in the men's division. The women's competition was closely contested, ending in a 6-6 tie at the end of regulation time. Still, Samoa managed to cross the try line in the added extra time, securing the gold medal. Fiji, once again, settled for bronze after defeating the Cook Islands by 7 points.

Samoa also earned another significant gold medal through Nu’u Tuilefano in the women's hammer throw (49.07 meters), further solidifying Samoa's position in fourth place on the medal tally, ahead of fifth-placed Fiji (33 golds compared to Fiji's 16 and PNG's 15).

Samoa won gold in both tournaments -  Photos: Charlie Ando Bitikolo, Pacific Games News Service
Samoa won gold in both tournaments - Photos: Charlie Ando Bitikolo, Pacific Games News Service

PNG, currently competing with Fiji for the fifth position, added an important gold in Tennis doubles at the National Tennis Center in Honiara. Abigail Tere-Apisah and Mathew Stubbings defeated the Tahitian pair (Boodisie-Vosin) in straight sets (6-3, 6-0). Today will see the finals for both the women's (10 am) and men's (11 am) singles, as well as the women's and men's doubles in the afternoon.

Thursday's schedule includes many medals at stake. In addition to the four in tennis and two early ones in Triathlon and Va'a, along with the four Powerlifting finals during the day, there will be 12 athletics finals in the afternoon that could alter the medal standings. At 4:15, the Shot Put Seated (Class 1-5) final will be the first of an evening filled with medals at the National Stadium. The highlight of the day will be the closure with the 4 x 400m Relays Male at 7:15 pm.

With three exciting days remaining in the Solomon Islands (ending on Saturday, December 2), New Caledonia has built an insurmountable lead over its pursuers (73+48+49) and will likely secure the XVII edition of the Pacific Games. The battle for the second position is intense between Tahiti (445+48+47) and Australia (43+30+8). Although Australia is far behind in the total number of medals (71 compared to 140), it is only 3 golds (which determine the final ranking) away from overtaking its rival. Samoa is on a solo path to the fourth place (33+19+16), while Fiji (16 golds) and PNG (15) seem to be vying for the fifth position in a tournament where the host, with 12 golds, is slightly behind but has had a great performance in this edition.