Mini Games athletes commit to competition | Guam Sports
“We welcome our athletes from Guam who are with us and wish them well as they compete in the mini-games.”
With those words from the pilot crackling over the plane’s audio early Friday morning, a few athletes smiled and waved. Some just stared at their phones, texting furiously before the plane took off. And, a few others just kept stretching and rubbing their eyes.
The line of athletes seemed endless as they boarded the United Airlines flight – members of the va’a, weightlifting, beach volleyball and badminton teams heading to the 2022 Pacific Mini Games, all very stylish in Guam team gear.
The tone was light as several athletes joked about the need to recover from the long flight and acclimatize to the change in temperature from Guam to Saipan. However, every team member we spoke to said the only instructions were to put things away where their new home is and prepare to practice.
“I don’t know when we can eat,” one athlete joked. “But I really want a medal, so we have practice in a few hours.”
With the idyllic landscape of Saipan as the perfect backdrop and pristine beaches serving as the battleground, the 2022 Pacific Mini Games has officially opened the doors to a week-long display of regional strength, courage and daring play. . Baseball and tennis have been on the line since Thursday in team competition, rocking Oleai Stadium and American Memorial Park and drawing hundreds of spectators.
The mini-games will feature 2,000 athletes from 20 different countries across the Pacific. Powerhouses such as Australia, New Caledonia and Tahiti will take on smaller island nations such as Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands and Palau. But here, the rules of the game are equal and performance is what counts.
Badminton’s Ellaine Lebang said it was show time. The team members have been working daily since finally having a new badminton center.
“Before, we only played at the complex on Tuesday and Thursday. … Now we could practice daily to prepare for this competition,” she said.
This is Guam’s first time competing in badminton, and Lebang is confident the contingent will do their best.
“We’re all excited. … This will be an experience for all of us,” she said.
Recognizing the talent from the region that will be on display this week, Lebang said the Mini Games were the perfect starting point.
Tahiti has competed internationally, she said, and the Guam team looks forward to the experience of competing against a team of this caliber.
“We all have to start somewhere,” she said. “And the team is young, but they have worked hard to be ready.”
Va’a team member Adam Palomo said he is looking for a medal and hopes his team will pull together. He relies on the work ethic of his team and on the ability of its members to work as a team.
“We have a lot of youngsters, but we have the experience to succeed,” he said pointing to his teammates. “Several of us were part of the 2015 medal winning team. … Some of these other countries have a lot of experience on their boat, but we worked just as hard.
Already, the plan is to scout the lanes and check the waters, he said.
“We will train today for sure,” he said.
Opening ceremonies – assuming all goes well – were scheduled for 5 p.m. at Oleai Stadium in Susupe. Big surprises were promised, but from 3:50 p.m., the weather was capricious thanks to violent and stormy winds and a blinding sun, barely 30-40 minutes apart.
There are signs of just how much NMI has invested in minigames. A cultural spectacle greeted the arrivals from Guam. Every street corner and business has welcome signs and discounts for athletes.
Normally quiet, Beach Road was a hive of activity but the police presence was heavy, keeping traffic flowing.
Saturday and Sunday are light on competition, but events are in full swing on Monday with medal rounds in multiple disciplines.
This week promises to be fun for those lucky enough to witness it.