The CNMI National Tennis Team reached a milestone in the XVI Pacific Games in Samoa, as its three gold medals were the most the Commonwealth earned in the regional competition.
The squad, which was made up of Colin Sinclair, Robbie Schorr, Ken Song, Bobby Cruz, Carol Lee, Malika Miyawaki, Isabel Heras, Tania Tan, and coaches Jeff Race (head) and Lydia Tan (assistant), delivered the gold medals for the CNMI after prevailing in the men’s singles, mixed doubles, and team events. Sinclair notched the gold in the singles and mixed doubles (with Lee) and also joined forces with Song and Schorr in ruling the team tournament.
Days after the conquest in Samoa, Race still felt their achievement was surreal.
“I am still in shock, but loving it,” he said.
“It was really inspirational to have Colin Sinclair on our team. It helped give our other players confidence that, with him, they could do their best and win medals. Even the matches that we lost were all very closely contested. I feel like Carol and Robbie played at levels above what they’d been able to achieve in the past. Ken and Isabel showed how much their stateside experience in the last year helped them improve. Malika played a close match with a player from Tahiti that would have wiped her out two years ago. Tania overcame her doubts to win a three-set singles match against a player that she found very intimidating going into the match. All the players on our team won at least one or more matches,” Race added.
The group’s three gold medals surpassed the two golds (each) that the CNMI bagged during the 1987 South Pacific Games in Noumea, New Caledonia and in the 1999 South Pacific Games in Guam.
Swimmer and CNMI Sports Hall of Famer Jon Sakovich handed the islands two gold medals, three silvers, and a bronze in the 1987 competition, according to Saipan Swim Club co-founder and Sakovich father, Bill. The Commonwealth’s two gold medals in the 1999 event, on the other hand, were courtesy of swimmer Xenavee Pangelinan (400m individual medley) and the men’s slow pitch team. The CNMI also won six silver medals and eight bronzes in Guam for the team’s most medals (16) since joining the South Pacific/Pacific Games in 1979.
The first South Pacific/Pacific Games was held in Fiji in 1963, but it was only in the event’s sixth edition that the CNMI finally send athletes to the competition. The Commonwealth did not medal in its debut and then missed the 1983 event in Samoa before returning in 1987 with Sakovich leading the team.
The CNMI went on to consistently compete in the Pacific Games, joining the regional tournament’s next eight editions, including this year’s. The Commonwealth failed to bring home medals in 1991 and 2015 Pacific Games hosted by Papua New Guinea and in 2007 in Samoa. In 1995 in Tahiti, the CNMI got a silver and two bronze medals, while in 2003 in Fiji, the team won a silver and a gold. In 2001 in New Caledonia, the CNMI Baseball Team came out victorious for the Commonwealth’s lone medal in Noumea.
Adding the tennis team’s four medals in Samoa last week, the CNMI now has a total of 32 medals—eight golds 12 silvers, and 12 bronzes—in its 10 appearances in the Pacific Games. New Caledonia holds the record (2,269)—910 gold medals, 728 silvers, and 631 bronzes—while Tahiti (517 golds) and PNG (461) are ranked second and third, respectively, in the history of the Pacific Games.