| In a stunning final day in the Judo at the South Pacific Games
Fiji rose from the ashes of yesterday's mass defeat by New Caledonia to sweep the board in
the Open weight and team competitions. Their four gold medals, added to the four won on the
first day, equalled New Caledonia's eight, and thanks to the superiority in number of silvers
won, eight to New Caledonia's four, Fiji top the final Judo medal table here in Suva.
But it could not have been closer and, very fittingly, in the end it all came down to the
last fight. And last fights in Oceania Judo nearly always mean the appearence of Fiji's
World class heavyweight Nacane Qerewaqa. At this level the Commonwealth Games champion is
unstoppable. And so it proved to be in both the men's Openweight and the men's teams.
In the Open Querewaqa's first opponent was the 16 year old 170 kg fighter from Guam, Ricardo
Blas,who was banged onto his back three times in rapid succession. Unfortunately for Blas
the first time was changed from ippon to yuko by the judges and the second was ruled outside
the area. But the third thankfully scored ippon. The Open category here is a genuine open
weight with many of the lighter weight champions competing. Querewaqa's opponent in the
semi-final was the -90 kg gold medallist, Arnaud Bertrand from Tahiti who had narrowly defeated
the -73 kg gold medallist, New Caledonia's de Habreu Trinade in a close encounter, scoring
yuko with Te waza on the bell. Qerewaqa was very efficient, if not spectacular, against
Bertrand, bundling him over and pinning him for ippon with an unshakable Mune gatame. Bertrand
went on to take one of the bronze medals. The other was taken by Trinade, who overcame an
incredible 100 kg difference in weight when he beat Blas, throwing him for a koka with a
drop down Kata guruma and miraculously surviving being thrown around like a rag doll when
Blas actually managed to get hold of him!
Qerewaqa's opponent in the final was his smaller brother Nemani Takayawa who had defeated
Peter Sablan of Guam with a big O soto gari ippon and New Caledonia's Jerome Papai, the
-100 kg gold medallist, in a close contest where the decisive score was an Ouchi leg grab
that sat Papai down on his rear for a koka.
The final between the two Fijian brothers lasted less than a minute, Qerewaqa producing
a big fully committed rolling right handed Harai goshi for the ippon that gave him the +100
kg and Open weight double.
By contrast with the men's category there was practically no competition in the women's event.
But the category was won by the most talented female judoka in the South Pacific Games, Fiji's
Sisilia Naisiga, the gold medallist in the -70 kg category who defeated her fellow countrywoman
Laisa Laveti, the-78 kg champion, in a straight final, scoring a magnificent ippon with her
tokui waza, a driving right handed Ouchi gari. So Fiji had captured the two Open weights as
expected and it was down to the team events.
The women's team event was a straight final between Fiji and New Caledonia, the only two
South Pacific Games nations with sufficient female judoka to be able to field a five person
Audrey Thomas at -52 kg won the first fight for New Caledonia turning Mereani Naioba's
leg grab into a big, ippon scoring Harai goshi, but after that it was all Fiji. To increasing
exceitment and vocal support from the home crowd first Elina Nasaudroro defeated the individual
champion at -57 kg Rosa Delots by winding her all the way up the penalty scale. Then, at
-63 kg, Vilimain Baleiverata turned Melissa Kaddour's Ouchi gari with Uranage for ippon,
defeating another of New Caledonia's individual champions. And it was left to the double
gold medallist, in the -70 kg and Open, Sisilia Naisiga, to fight the glory fight. This
was against Gylhaine Durand, which Naisiga quickly won, turning her Tani otoshi for yuko
and pinning her with Kami shiho gatame to win the match, amidst massive scenes of jubilation.
New Caledonia withdrew their heavyweight and Fiji were 4-1 [40-10] victors.
Now it was down to the men's teams. Fiji swiftly disposed of Tonga 5-0 [50-10], though
the young Tongan team looked to have promise worth building on. New Caledonia v Tahiti was
a much closer match, with the -73 fight between New Caledonia's individual champion Jonathan
Berger and Tahiti's Frederic Garcia proving very interesting. Berger looked more like a
boxer than a judoka as he smashed in his overhand grip and bludgeoned Garcia's elegant style
to pieces, scoring only a koka from a counter, but that proved to be enough. In the end
Arnaud Bertrand was Tahiti's only winner and New Caledonia moved on to the final by a score
of 4-1 [28-10]. In the bronze medal match Tahiti dispatched Tonga 5-0 [50-0] with Garcia's
immediate yuko scoring Tomoe nage into Juji gatame for ippon proving the most exciting action.
And so to the grand finale - winner takes all. The victors in this match would top the
medal table, and following the women's team victory Fiji were on a roll and determined to
take no prisoners! But it was New Caledonia who opened the account, Cyril Chevalier neatly
turning over Atunaisa Delai with a low Kata guruma for ippon. Jonathan Berger extended their
lead with an efficient Tomoe nage and turn into Tate shiho gatame on Seba Sauvini that also
scored ippon. Fiji had their backs to the wall and the crowd had gone strangely silent.
Now came the crucial fight at -81kg between Gerald Chadfeau for New Caledonia and Josateki
Naulu of Fiji. Within seconds of the start Chadfeau was penalised for pistol gripping and
from then on he was always on the back foot. A desperate Osoto gari was ridden to the ground
by Naulu and powerfully turned into Yoko shiho gatame. Despite massive efforts Chadfeau
could not shift Naulu, Fiji were back in the match and the crowd were back in full voice.
With their last two fighters being the silver and gold medallists from the Open category
the contest had now swung in their favour.
Facing Fiji's Nemani Takayawa was Steve Olsen. In a very tactical match there were no scores
but Takayawa's superior edge play forced the step out penalty that was to lead to his eventual
disqualification. Never has a hansoku make been so heartily cheered! All square with one
fight to go: the winner of the -100 kg category, Jerome Papai against the +100 kg and Open
weight champion Nacaneli Qerewaqa. And the Fijian finished the match in style, with his
hopping Uchi mata for ippon, which practically lifted the stadium roof!
Fiji had finished at the top of the table, mainly thanks to their two star performers.
Had either Naisiga or Qerewaqa been a South Sea Island they would have finished third on
the medal table on their own!
But it was a fitting way to finish these friendly Games. Fiji have really put sport in
the South Sea Islands on the map. There was even a World record at these games - in the
weightlifting - and the chance to become a National hero was taken by large numbers of athletes
who would normally be eclipsed in major international events. It will be interesting to
see how their fighters fare in the forthcoming Oceania Judo Championships which are being
held in the same arena in a couple of days time. If Fiji can build on the great success
of this event they could be on their way to even great sporting success and their judoka
will be a force to be reckoned with.
|South Pacific Games 2003
CHEVALIER, Cyril (NCL)
DULAC, Paul (NCL)
TRINDADE, de Habreud (NCL)
LALLUT, Antony (TAH)
BERTAND, Arnaud (TAH)
PAPAI, Jerome (NCL)
QEREWAQA, Nacanelli (FIJ)
NACENELI Qerewaqa: (FIJ)
Silver: New Caledonia
DULAC Helene (NCL)
THOMAS Audrey (NCL)
DELOTS Rosa (NCL)
KADDOUR, Melissa (NCL)
RASOKISOKI, Sisilia (FIJ)
NAVIRI, Ana (FIJ)
NAVIRI, Ana (FIJ))
NAISIGA Sisilia (FIJ)