Pacific Games 2015 – Race Report
The 2015 Pacific Games were held in Papua New Guinea where 24 countries competed in various sports. I was lucky enough to get a spot racing for the Northern Mariana Islands triathlon team. I can honestly say it was the opportunity of a lifetime!
First, hats off to Papua New Guinea for hosting a world class event. Approximately 5000 athletes were hosted in the “Athletes Village,” a newly constructed housing facility, complete with a full kitchen that served breakfast, lunch, and dinner to every athlete, coach, and staff member for approximately three weeks.
They also constructed new sports complexes including a state of the art swimming pool for the Games! It was a privilege just to practice and compete in such nice facilities.
There was an amazing congregation of cultures. Participating countries included American Samoa, Australia, Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Tahiti, Guam, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, New Caledonia, New Zealand, Niue, Norfolk Island, Northern Mariana Islands, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tokelau, Tonga, Tuvalu, Vanuatu, and Wallis and Futuna.
The triathlon event was held at the Naval Base where we had a short dance presentation by the “Mud Men” from Papua New Guinea right on the boat ramp leading down to the pontoons for the swim start.
The race began by each athlete being called out by name and lining up on the pontoon. The music then faded into just the sound of a heartbeat, which settled everyone into race mode to anticipate the starting horn.
The race was only a sprint distance (750m swim, 20k bike, 5k run), which I had never done before. Unfortunately, my swim started off bit poorly with my goggles flipping up during the dive start. They also made us wear inside-out swim caps to hide a logo on the outside. This meant the slippery side was on our heads and mine kept slipping off. I also incurred a penalty for not putting my swim cap and goggles in my box at T1. It was my first ITU event, so I wasn’t used to all the new rules, but I definitely won’t make the same mistake again.
The bike was a draft-legal, four loops around the same closed-off street, which contained one climb that we had to hit 4 times. TT bikes and aero helmets were against the rules, although you could use short parallel tri bars if they didn’t extend past your break levers. I had to take off my tri bars and just ride the drops to be in compliance.
There were plenty of spectators and kids cheering along the way, which made it more fun than your typical tri where you don’t see anyone until the end. Some of the kids would even try to race you along the course. Throughout the Pacific Games, the people of Papua New Guinea were overwhelmingly excited to have us there and took every opportunity to smile, wave, and get to know us.
The run followed the same bike course loop, and ended in a big football stadium where spectators could watch the finish on a big screen. All in all, it was fantastically organized by Stephen Damien of PNG and the whole ITU/OTU team of people that came out to officiate. Congratulations to New Caledonia for taking home the Gold, and my Guamanian friends for bringing home a bronze in the team race. Can’t wait for the next Games!
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