Andrew: Va’a teams exceeded expectations

Posted on Jul 04 2022

The CNMI National Outrigger Team men’s and women’s team challenged the world’s best during the Northern Marianas Pacific Mini Games 2022. (NMPMG2022/GRACE CHOI)

The outrigger canoe or va’a competition was one of the most exciting sports to watch during the Northern Marianas Pacific Mini Games 2022, with the world’s best Tahiti, New Caledonia, and Wallis & Futuna flying through the waters off the 13 Fishermen Memorial beach.

The fact that both the men’s and women’s CNMI National Outrigger Team never wavered in their pursuit of the top teams in the Games, their coach Justin Andrew had nothing but praises for them.

“Both men’s and women’s teams exceeded my expectations. They performed their best and recorded some of the best Team NMI times I have ever seen during our practices.”

Joshua Andrew, a paddler on the NMI men’s team, shared his father’s sentiments and said, “I think overall we did great! We all knew the level of competition that was coming to the CNMI so we did all we could to prepare. For many of us, it was either their first time competing at this level so we’ll be more motivated next time we compete against the South Pacific teams.”

The NMI men’s and women’s national va’a team competed in the V12, V6, and V1 category events which covered various distances. The women’s V12 team was awarded the bronze medal in the first va’a race after Papua New Guinea was disqualified due to a start fault and for finishing outside their designated race lane.

“It’s an unfortunate situation for the teams that got disqualified. No one wants to be in that situation but I’m glad both parties understood that they were in the wrong and accepted the DQ. Our ladies got the bronze by a hair and I’m sure they all know what level they’re up against in the future Games,” said Joshua when asked about the women’s team being awarded the bronze medal.

Despite not placing in other race categories, Justin was asked what the future holds for the NMI’s best paddlers and he said they will only go up from here.

“We have a very young team. The sport of outrigger is developing and will continue to develop and our national team paddlers will only get better. For what’s next, we have accomplished an amazing competition, now we will regroup, and focus on local events that we can use as preparations for upcoming regional events.”

He further said that training never stops for them.

“Small local events are also training and just being active on the canoe is training already. We know that there are big events next year in the Marshall Islands for the Micronesian Games and the Pacific Games in the Solomon Islands, so these two big regional games will be what we will work for using our small local events to prepare and to assemble the next national va’a team.”

Justin then thanked everyone for a successful va’a competition and for the CNMI’s successful hosting of the Mini Games.

“I want to thank all the athletes and coaches and officials who traveled miles to come and compete with us. They only make us better athletes for sharing their experience and showcasing their talents on the competition course and sharing their stories during their stay. I also want to thank all the local volunteers and those who traveled here to help us run a smooth event. Our va’a event would not have been possible without the amazing volunteers.”

Finally, he thanked the local Mini Games Organizing Committee. “I thank them for all the support in ensuring a successful va’a event and an amazing experience for the entire Team NMI PMG delegation!! We now know we can host high level events like this… we look forward to future events and hosting.”

The 14-person NMI men’s team that competed in the Northern Marianas Pacific Mini Games 2022 were Carter Calma, Joshua Andrew, Timothy Asaivao, Rodney Camacho, Michael Fleming III, William Grow II, Maverick Itibus, Ketson Kabiriel, James Lee, Benusto Olopai, Jose Quan, Richard Salas, Jovano Taitano, and Jason Tarkong.

The women’s team included Kaya Rasa, Vinalynn Oronigo, and Maiyah Duenas, Victoria Aldan, Heather Calderwood, Danica Calvo, Rica Concepcion, Erryne Dasalla, Jenisha Dubrall, Gerlyn Libunao, Elaine Sablan, Sharleen Sablan, Teresa Sablan, and Elizabeth Tenorio.

Va’a had the second most entries for the Mini Games after athletics. New Caledonia, Papua New Guinea, and the CNMI have the most paddlers with 28 apiece, followed by Guam with 24, Wallis & Futuna with 20, Tahiti with eight, Fiji with six, Norfolk Island with three, Cook Islands with two, and Palau with one.

Leigh Gases
Leigh Gases is the youngest reporter of Saipan Tribune and primarily covers community related news, but she also handles the utilities, education, municipal, and veterans beats. Contact Leigh at
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