After six days of fierce competition at Honiara’s Friendship Hall, the boxing tournament of the 2023 Pacific Games hosted in the Solomon Islands came to an end today.
Australia’s landslide success continued. After winning 6 out of 7 finals yesterday, Aussie boxers claimed six out of six today, securing 12 out of 13 Paris 2024 quota places.
In the women’s 50kg event, it was Monique Suraci who led the opening bout with a clear edge in rounds 1 and 2, controlling her opponent Tasmyn Te Aorere Hovell Benny of New Zealand throughout round 3, and eventually finishing on top with a perfect 5-0 score worth an Olympic berth.
“This means the world to me,” she said right after stepping down from the ring. “I started when I was 6 years old; I had my first fight at 10. It has been a long journey, but now I am here. I did it! This victory is for me. It’s for the 6-year-old me that got into boxing with a dream to get to the Olympics. Today, I’ve accomplished that dream; we did it, baby!”
Her teammate Tina Rahimi followed swiftly, as she outscored Tonga’s Feofaaki Epenisa in the women’s 57kg final match to secure a Paris 2024 qualification slot with another commanding unanimous decision.
Rahimi said, “I can’t wait to go to Paris. I think I have never been so nervous in my athlete’s life before. I felt a lot of pressure after 7 out of 8 teammates qualified between yesterday and earlier today,” she added. “I really didn’t want to be the one not to qualify, and now that I made it, I can’t wait to be there.”
In the men’s 51kg final, Yusuf Chothia shattered Solomon Islands’ Olympic dreams as he beat local hero Clinton Tetekana, who had made it all the way to the final through the tournament accompanied by enthusiastic supporters. Leading rounds 1 and 2 and taking little risks in round 3, the Australian finalist collected a unanimous decision win that propelled him to Paris.
“Going up against a local athlete, with the Solomon Islands crowd all for him, we knew it wasn’t going to be easy. At the same time, I was confident in my boxing skills, and thank God I made it.”
“I am going to Paris; that’s amazing. I would like to thank all who supported me, my family, my wife… We’re going to Paris, my love!”
Joining him on that plane, there will be Tokyo 2020 Olympic bronze medalist Harry Garside, securing a ticket to Paris in the men’s 63.5kg event as his opponent Elia Rokobuli from Fiji walked over due to a hand injury, and Shannan Davey, who outscored New Zealand’s Wendell Stanley in the men’s 71kg final match.
Closing in style, it was men’s +92kg champion Teremoana Teremoana who completed Australia’s success by collecting the last quota place up for grabs by defeating Samoa’s Elijah Mercury-Leafa, outpowering him and leading the referee to stop the contest 1 minute and 52 seconds into round 2.
“I am really happy with the decision of the judges here,” Teremoana said, after winning all his Pacific Games bouts by Referee Stop the Contest (RSC), displaying unmatched superiority in his weight class. “I met many good boxers here, and I know there are more qualifiers to come, so maybe I will meet them again in Paris.”
After the bout, Teremoana performed a traditional haka dance on the ring, welcomed by both the Australian team and thousands of spectators from all over the Pacific crowding the Friendship Hall.
“My heritage is the Cook Islands; it means a lot to me because we are at the Pacific Games, and I just wanted to demonstrate a bit of the culture I have inherited. I am proud of Australia, and I am proud of my culture.”
“My name, Teremoana, is a Polynesian name that means ‘boat’ and ‘Ocean,’ because we are people who cross the Ocean. The Ocean is in my name, and winning here I really feel I represent the whole Oceania.”
“I was always confident I was going to go to the Olympics. And now it’s real.”
As Teremoana prepares to cross yet another ocean on his way to Paris, lights fade out on the ring of the Pacific Games.
The tournament, serving as the boxing continental qualifier for the Oceania continent, comes to an end and also closes the continental phase of the Boxing Road to Paris qualification system.
Two more world qualification opportunities will be available to athletes from all continents in 2024. The 1st Boxing Road to Paris qualifiers will be held in Busto Arsizio, Italy, from the 29th of February to the 12th of March 2024, while the second and last world qualifier will take place in Bangkok, Thailand, from the 23rd of May to the 3rd of June.
Stay tuned on https://boxing.athlete365.org for updates on the Boxing Road to Paris!