Edition No. 35. Winter, 2003. Today is

South Pacific Games - Day 1
Suva, Fiji: July 10, 2003

By: Simon Hicks
"Go Fiji go! Go Fiji go!" The chant rings around the stadium as another Fijian steps onto the tatami to do battle. Eighty-four competitors from eight countries are fighting in the South Pacific Games Judo event which provides a chance for fighters from these small, far flung islands to compete against others of similar experience and ability. The venue is Suva in Fiji and the country has prepared superbly for the biggest ever sporting event in these islands with over 4,000 athletes. The vast number of sports includes South Pacific favourites like surfing and the hugely exciting touch rugby as well as most of the Olympic events. There is blanket television coverage and the kind of National pride and excitement that is only sociated with major sporting events.

The Judo event features 84 fighters from 8 countries is largely a two horse race between the well prepared and efficient team from New Caledonia and the rather more flamboyant host nation, with Tahiti providing occasional jokers in the pack. The New Caledonians and Tahitians do not all look like South Pacific islanders, and many of their teams are of French descent or ex-patriot French fighters. Indeed
there have been rumblings of a Fijian complaint asserting that some fighters from New Caledonia are really French nationals! The IJF has recently supplied a vast number of blue suits to the South Pacific Nations and new tatami have been imported from Japan, so the competition has a big tournament look to it and there is great support in the
stadium from both the public and the athletes from other sports cheering on their own countries teams. The fine spirit ofthese games is evident wherever you look and has captured the imagination of the locals, most of whom have never been to a major sporting event before.

Unfortunately the womens categories are very under subscribed at this tournament so, much to the delight of the patriotic home crowd ,the two heaviest female weights were taken by Fijians in straight finals over their own countrywomen! In the +78 kg Naviri bundled over Lewamoqe and pinned her for ippon and in the -78 kg Laveti rapidly threw and held Navosesei. The -70 kg was better supported, with five athletes, but still ended as an all Fijian final between Usiena Nalu and the Commonwealth Games bronze medallist Sisilia Rasokisoki. Fiji has a fighter of real international potential in Rasokisoki. Her techniques are sharp and incisive and she was head and shoulders above everyone else in the female categories on the first day, producing a beautiful right Ouchi gari ippon against New Caledonia's Isabelle Biret which was one of the best techniques of the day. Her Osoto gari on team mate Nalu
to take the title was also the finest throw of the first day's finals.

Watch out for Rasokisoki - she could just cause a few upsets at this year's World Championships.

The only other women's category of the day, the -63 kg, with three contestants,was won in bizarre style by Melissa Kadour , a green belt with little technique but tremendous spirit from New Caledonia. In her first fight she agressively dragged around Fiji's Vilimain Baleiverata, preventing her attacking until she was wound up to Hansoku, and then took on Ateca Waqanivalui, also from Fiji. In their first heated and
confused exchange Waqanivalui, determined to put up a better showing than her team mate attempted a reap from behind and was also disqualified. Kadour had won the title without scoring and almost without making any attacks!

By contrast, the most skillful and competitive category of the first day was the men's -81 kg which produced some very exciting Judo and some controversy. The evental winner, Antony Lallut from Tahiti dispatched his first two oponents in seconds and thenfought an exciting semi-final against Anthony Tran of New Caledonia, scoring twice, for waza-ari and yuko, with right drop seoinage, then getting countered for yuko and
finally producing a spectacular right Uchi-mata for ippon. His opponent in the final, Fiji's Josateki Naulu was equally dynamic in the earlier rounds, scoring superbly with his classy left Uchi-mata to Ouchi combination on several occasions. In the quarter-final against Gerald Chadfeau of New Caledonia he followed a waza-ari from this technique with an absolute bomb of a throw, a beautiful left O soto gari that
completely levelled his opponent. Naulu extended his string of ippons in the semi-final with a left Tai otoshi victory over Rehia Davio of Tahiti to bring him up against Lallut.

With two great throwers in the final a real hum dinger of a fight was anticipated, and both men seemed determined to give the crowd their money's worth as each exchange produced dramatic throws, counter throws and agile escapes. The Tahitian opened the scoring with a solid yuko counter to Naulu's O goshi. As crowd excitement grew an ippon to one or
the other seemed almostinevitable. But with a couple of minutes to go Naulu launched his left Uchi mata, Lallut rode it, attempting the counter, and the Fijian responded rolling over his arm and head as the technique failed. The referee and judges conferred and disqualified Naulu for a head dive. This was a disappointing and debatable end to an exciting fight and an enjoyable category. The bronze medals were taken by Epoki Faka'osi of Tonga and Gerald Chadfeau of New Caledonia who won a golden score fight against his team mate Anthony Tran.

Tahiti also claimed the -90 kg category when Arnaud Bertrand
surprisingly defeated Fiji's Nemani Takayawa. The Tahitian had breezed through his earlier fights with a quick right Seoinage ippon over James Donga of the Solomon Islands and a Sumi gaeshi - Kami shiho gatame ippon victory over New Caledonia's Pierre-Jean Lung. Tayayawa had alsolooked very convincing in his right Uchi-mata victory over Teva Tapare of Tahiti and his Mune-gatame win against Steve Olsen from New Caledonia,
but in the final he could not cope with Bertrand's superior tactical ability. The Tahitian survived being bulldozed through the principal sponsor's advertising hoarding early in the fight ,a piece of action subsequently much repeated on Television, probably much to the sponsor's delight! This incident, far from dampening down Bertrand's spirits, only
seemed to stiffen his resolve and from then on he simply never allowed his younger opponent to settle, running him ragged with hit and run tactics and winding him up to 3 shidos. Tayakawa, his lack of fitness exposed in the latter half of the fight, had no answer to these tactics and had to settle for silver, whilst Lung and Olsen took the two bronzes
for New Caledonia.

The final of the -100 kg was an all New Caledonian affair between Jerome Papai and Jean-Francois Durand who had each defeated Fijians in their semi-finals. Papai proved to be the stronger of the two,winning with an impressive standing O soto gari that was nearly countered by his team mate before he forced it through fora big ippon. Indeed O soto gari seemed to be the technique of the -100 kg with the two Fijians, Sosive
Uluiviti and Josu Nabukavisa both scoring ippon with it to win their bronze medal fights.

Fijian Judo 's undoubted hero is their well known male heavyweight Nacane Qerewaqa, last year's Commonwealth Games champion, and his photo adorns numerous posters and the local telephone directory. A world class fighter with an Uchi-mata as big as his smile , he was never likely to be stretched in either the +100 kg or Openweight categories, and his task was made even easier when he drew a bye in the heavyweights,
sending him straight into the semi-final. Here his opponent was the massive 16 year old Ricardo Blas from Guam, the son of Ric Blas, President of the South Pacific Games, weighing in at 170 kgs! Blas had bowled over Tahiti's Lucien Mairau with a Harai makikomi for ippon in his first fight but only lasted seconds against Qerewaqa, taken out with a neat Sasae-tsuri-komi-ashi. Blas went on to take the bronze with another massive Harai goshi ippon,taking only 5 seconds to dispose of
Tahiti's gigantic orange belt Teva Doom, a man so big his maximum sized jacket barely met at the front and who, as a result, had to be given special dispensation to compete.

In the final Qerewaqa 's opponent was Phillippe Vautrin from New Caledonia, who had disposed of Fiji's James Takayawa with a fine Harai makikomi waza-ari straight into Osaekomi in the other semi-final. Takayawa subsequentlylost his bronze medal fight to the Tahitian Lucien Mairau when his Ouchi gari was countered for ippon with Uranage.

The +100 kg final provided a fitting fjnale to the day for the excited crowd as Qerewaqa whipped over Vautrin with a neat switch into Sasae tsuri komi ashi for waza-ari transferring straight into an unshakable Mune gatame, and bringing Fiji it's fourth gold medal of the day. Lying second on the overall medal table at the South Pacific Games the hosts are hoping that their judoka will continue their dominance in the lightweights, the open and the team events that are to follow in the next two days.

Day 2 »

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TRINDADE, de Habreud (NCL)

LALLUT, Antony (TAH)


PAPAI, Jerome (NCL)

QEREWAQA, Nacanelli (FIJ)

NACENELI Qerewaqa: (FIJ)

Gold: FIJI
Silver: New Caledonia
Bronze: Tahiti



DULAC Helene (NCL)



KADDOUR, Melissa (NCL)





Gold: FIJI
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