Papua New Guinea won the first medal of the Northern Marianas Pacific Mini Games 2022 after its women’s team struck gold in the tennis competition Saturday at the American Memorial Park tennis courts.
Pitted against fellow powerhouse Fiji, the women’s team led by Abigail Tere-Apisah and her nieces—Violet and Patricia—overwhelmed their opponents, 2-0, in the finals.
Tere-Apisah, who once was ranked as high as No. 276 in the WTA Tour, kicked things off for PNG by blanking Ruby Coffin, 6-0, 6-0.
Violet then turned red to secure the tie after beating Saoirse Breen, 6-2, 6-1, to the delight of the PNG crowd who quickly erupted in celebration.
Tere-Apisah, who just nine months ago became a new mother, said getting the first gold medal of the Games is special for the team.
“It’s nice to know that we got the first gold medal of the Games. So that’s extra special. I’m just so happy the past couple of months putting in the work on the court and it’s so nice to be back and competing, now as a mom and doing it for my country, my son, and my family,” said the 29-year-old from Port Moresby.
Violet, who actually was PNG’s No. 1, said the gold medal was made more special since she won with family.
“Feels great and to do it alongside my family it’s a great experience. My aunt started it all and I’ve always looked up to her and I’m just trying to follow in her footsteps,” said the 22-year-old would-be transferee to Texas Christian University.
PNG tennis coach Mark Lewis said the gold medal in the Games is a culmination of all the hard work and perseverance PNG Tennis went through the past seven years.
“First medal here and first visit to this beautiful island. I’ve been involved with PNG since 2015 where we turned around tennis in that nation…This group has been together since 2015. Some of these players have been with us since 2015 like Matthew Stubbings and the Apisah family is legendary in tennis and they’re unbelievable. They just lost a grandad but the network has stayed together.”
Lewis, PNG Tennis’ success proves that conquering the plague of sedentary youth glued to their mobile phone and game consoles can be won.
“The biggest thing that’s coming out of the Games moving around the Pacific is that everywhere I go is I keep talking to the countries to recognize the development of children.”
He said there’s two things in the Pacific that need to be pushed—one is education and two is involvement in sports.
“I listened to a mom apologize to me yesterday because her daughter couldn’t catch the ball when it was rolled to her at the side and it’s her first experience as a ball girl…That’s an indictment on all of us to reach out to our political groups, our businesses, our sporting network, our education network as children need to get off the screen and back to hand-and-eye exercises.”