Things did not work Carol Lee’s way after the first week of competition in the XVI Pacific Games, but she remained focus and motivated en route to making it to the top of the podium in Samoa.
“My goal in the Pacific Games was to win at least one medal and I did achieve that after getting the mixed doubles gold with Colin Sinclair,” said Lee, who also played in the team event in Week 1 and had a tough assignment in the pool play, as they were pitted against tournament favorites Papua New Guinea and Samoa.
Lee, Malika Miyawaki, Isabel Heras, and Tania Tan ended up in fifth place in the team event and had only a few days of rest before returning to the court to play in the singles, doubles, and mixed doubles.
“It was raining a lot, on and off, and the weather made everyone slow down, mentally. I just knew there were going to be more rain coming, and it would be like that for two whole weeks, so I mentally prepared myself,” said Lee.
Fatigue took its toll on some players, as they withdrew from their matches, while Lee and the rest of the CNMI bets soldiered on, seeing action in multiple games in one day with just a few hours or even less than an hour of rest in between.
“I played four matches in one day, and then two, the next day, which was the semifinals mixed doubles, and the finals. It was very tiring, I will be honest,” the 17-year-old said.
“But winning the medal motivated me to keep moving on,” Lee added.
In the final day of the competition (last Friday), Lee and Sinclair played in the semifinals in the morning versus the Cook Islands’ Brett Baudinet and Tamara Anderson and was forced to an extended first set before escaping with a 7-5 victory. In the second set, the CNMI pair won anew, 6-3, to advance to the finals against PNG and No. 1 seed Abigail Tere-Apisah and Matthew Stubbings. Earlier in the singles quarterfinals, Lee lost to Tere-Apisah, while Stubbings gave Sinclair some anxious moments in their first singles duel in the team event.
The PNG duo went on to win the first set, pushing the CNMI bets to the brink with a 7-6 victory, but Lee and Sinclair persevered and took the second set, 6-3, to keep their gold medal hopes alive.
Then in the deciding third set, the No. 1 seed team seemed poised for the win, as it led in the majority of the game and even posted a 3-0 advantage early on. However, Lee and Sinclair made one of the biggest comebacks in the tournament to upset the PNG players, 10-8, and hand the CNMI its third gold medal.
“Win or lose, it was one of the best matches I ever played,” Lee said, adding that she is thankful for the opportunity to play with Sinclair.
“It was such an honor to play with Colin Sinclair. He was the top ATP player I ever played with in mixed doubles. I didn’t even imagine it! I am thankful I played with him. Hopefully, we can play together again in the future,” said Lee, who is back in Fiji to train for a few more world-ranking tournaments. “It’s a great honor to play for the CNMI and I am proud that I was able to win a gold medal for our team.”