The CNMI has a shot at making it to the medal tally in the XVI Pacific Games after va’a’s Kalea Andrew and swimming’s Juhn Tenorio, Aika Watanabe, Sophia, Gauran, and Jinju Thompson advanced to the finals of their respective events in Samoa yesterday.
Andrew ruled Heat 3 of the V-1’s 500m race after clocking in at 2:53:40 in the preliminaries. She was the lone paddler in her heat to finish the qualifier in less than three minutes and was way ahead of her competitors, as Guam’s Isabel Gutierrez came in at second with a time of 3:06.93. Samoa’s Anne Cairns (3:08.45), Palau’s Samantha Rechellul (3:22.17), and Papua New Guinea’s Mauri Ila (3:28.85) completed the field.
“For the first few days of being here, I slowly grew more and more anxious and nervous, but as I went into the holding area or waiting area for the athletes competing up next I felt relieved to finally do the race,” said Kalea, who is joined in Samoa by her father and Northern Marianas National Paddle Sports Federation president Justin and coach Jason Tarkong.
“And I feel pretty nervous and excited for the finals tomorrow (today) because all the best paddlers are going to be out and I’ll be racing against them,” she added.
The CNMI paddler will be battling Cairns, Tahiti’s Vaimiti Maoni, the Cook Islands’ Ioana Turia, Fiji’s Elenoa Vateitei, and New Caledonia’s Marcy Manate in the finals today at 9:24am (6:24am Saipan time).
“Thanks to coach Dino (NMNPSF vice president Dino Manning) for the training and workout programs to prepare for the Pacific Games. Also, thanks to my dad, Justin Andrew, and the Saipan Paddling Club coach for the encouragement, and lastly thanks to coach Jason Tarkong for his words of encouragements and support for my teammates here representing the CNMI in the va’a races,” said Kalea, who will be on Lane 2 in the gold medal race.
Meanwhile, Steven Goodwin also competed in the men’s V-1’s 500m event and raced against world champion Kevin Ceran Jerusalemy of Tahiti. As expected, Jerusalemy topped Heat 3 with a blistering time of 2:08.87. Goodwin clocked in at 3:00.11.
“It’s an amazing experience just being in the presence of some of my idols and the world’s best,” said Goodwin.
Meanwhile, competitions at the Samoa Aquatic Centre also kicked off yesterday with four CNMI swimmers reaching the finals.
Tenorio submitted 2:22:11 in the 200m backstroke preliminaries to make it to the gold medal race, which took place last night and results were unavailable as off press time. Watanabe also qualified in the finale for the 200m backstroke race after recording 2:51:45 and will be joined in the gold medal race by Thompson. Gauran, on the other hand, was entered in the finals of the 200m breaststroke event.
In other results, David Boyer and Lennosuke Suzuki competed in the 50m butterfly and clocked in at 29.56 seconds and 29.73 seconds, respectively, to place ahead of seven swimmers (from Guam, Tonga, Palau, and Vanuatu).