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Solomon Islands’ Matekali and Firusua claim silver and bronze in women’s half marathon

 Tahiti’s triathlon sensation, Salome De Barthez De Mamorieres, clinched her fifth gold medal at Sol2023, winning the women’s half marathon on Saturday with a time of 1 hour 23 minutes and 39 seconds.

However, her victory was fiercely contested by veteran long-distance duo from Solomon Islands, Dianah Matekali and Sharon Kikini Firisua, who trailed closely.

Matekali secured the silver, finishing just 1 minute and 24 seconds behind the Tahitian, crossing the line at 1:24:23, while Firisua settled for bronze with a time of 1:24:54.

Speaking to the Pacific Games News Service, De Mamorieries said: “This one, I can’t believe it. The Solomon girls (Matekali and Firisua) were very strong and were leading for most of the way, and I think about after 10km I accelerated and was just hoping they weren’t following closely behind”.

De Mamorieries also shared her ambition to earn a place in the Paris 2024 Olympic Games following her participation in the rigorous first division triathlon competitions in France in the coming year.

Reflecting on the half marathon, Matekali said: “I’m very happy with the silver and as I recorded a new personal best”.

She revealed that this will be her last Pacific Games, however she will be competing in the Olympics with preparations in Australia during the lead-up.

Standing beside her was national teammate, Firisua, who said: “Each race is different and so I accepted the way it ended, even though I did not get my personal best today.

“We stayed with the Tahiti runner for part of the race and tried to work on a game strategy but she’s a good runner so we decided that Diana will follow her and that’s how the race ended.”

Earning fourth place with a time of 1:29.22 was Tania Tan from Northern Mariana Islands, who earlier in the week claimed two golds in the 10,000 meters and 5,000 metres, setting a new record in the latter.

Entering the marathon with an upbeat attitude, the Pacific Games newcomer said: “This is my first try at the marathon, and I wanted to give it a go while just having some fun, especially after two really tough races earlier this week.

“I think I was the only one smiling and talking during the race,” she joked.

In the men’s half marathon, Tahiti’s Benjamin Zorgnotti bagged his fourth gold medal of Sol2023, crossing the finish line first with a time of 71:71. Siune Kagi of Papua New Guinea bagged the silver, crossing the line second with a personal best of 71:17, while Hugo Tormento from New Caledonia, who caused an upset by defeating Zorgnotti in the men’s aquathlon on Friday, claimed bronze with a time of 71:53.

When asked if he felt any pressure to win the half marathon after Friday’s upset, Zorgnotti, said: “I’ve got four gold medals and that was my goal”.

“Today was so tiring and so hot. I think closer to the end, Tormento dropped 5 metres behind me, and I just accelerated.”

Speaking to the Pacific Games News Service, an ecstatic Torrento said: “I really didn’t expect anything today but to give my best”.

“I was closely behind Benjamin and when I’d catch up, he would accelerate and at the end when he did, I was just like, come on, this is yours,” he joked.

Kagi, who finished just under a minute behind the Tahitian, said: “I was really expecting to come first but I’m still proud of my efforts. I’d like to dedicate this silver to my country and especially my parents and coaches. I wanted to also beat my personal best during the race, and I believe I’ve done that”.

The conclusion of the half marathons drew to a close an exciting chapter in athletics that showcased remarkable records and the rise of promising newcomers throughout the week.

Photo and Story By Donaldson Saepioh and Aaron Ballekom, Pacific Games News Service

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