By Natalie Choholei, Willie Lovai and Joanna Lester, Games News Service
PORT MORESBY, July 17 – Papua New Guinea finished with a flourish on the final day of athletics at BSP Stadium, claiming gold in all but one of the track events.
The medal bonanza began with the women’s 400m hurdles, in which Donna Koniel (PNG) won gold and set a new Pacific Games record in the process.
Koniel finished in 58.28 seconds to claim the record and her fourth medal (third gold) at Port Moresby 2015. PNG’s Sharon Kwarula bagged silver with a time of 60.17 seconds and Ana Baleveicau (FIJ) picked up bronze.
“I’m a bit tired, it’s the last day, but I just wanted to go out and have fun on the track,” Koniel said. “I’ve got the world championships next month so I’m going back to China to train for that.”
PNG enjoyed a clean sweep of the podium in the men’s 400m hurdles. Mowen Boino claimed gold in 52.51 seconds. Less than a second behind him was PNG’s Peniel Joshua, while teammate Wala Gime bagged bronze.
The hosts also secured gold and silver in the women’s 3000m steeplechase. Rama Kumilgo (PNG) won the race in 11 minutes, 26.51 seconds, followed by Poro Gahekave (PNG) in 11 minutes, 31.66 seconds. Heiata Brinkfield (NCL) claimed bronze, while defending champion Maria Beranadeta (FIJ) did not finish.
“I’m excited, this is the second time I have won this event,” Kumilgo said. “The first time I won was at the Oceania Championships where I set a new record. I’m also happy I beat the 2011 Pacific Games defending champion (Beranadeta).”
In the men’s 4x100m relay PNG snatched gold with a race time of 40.62 seconds. Fiji claimed silver in 41.06 seconds and New Caledonia won bronze.
PNG’s fourth runner, Kupun Wisil (PNG), said it felt good to get the better of Fijian sprint star Ratu Tabakaucoro on the final leg.
“I was running in front so I just told myself that the Fijian would not beat me,” Wisil told the Games News Service.
In an exciting finish to the women’s 4x100m relay Fiji won gold in 46.17 seconds, one tenth of a second ahead of PNG. New Caledonia claimed bronze.
Fiji’s first runner, Sisilia Seavula (FIJ), said that beating Toea Wisil’s PNG quartet was no mean feat.
“Running against the Pacific sprint queen (Wisil) and her team, we knew it wouldn’t be easy because they would be out there to get gold. But we thank god for his providence, and also without these three girls (her teammates) the gold medal wouldn’t be possible,” Seavulu said.
“We were hoping to give PNG a good challenge but, in the end, we were the champions,” added Fiji’s second runner, Makelesi Tumalevu (FIJ).
The final athletics event of Port Moresby 2015 is the half marathon, which starts at 06:00 on Saturday (July 18).