PAPUA New Guinea athletes are determined to defend their Pacific Mini Games title, having topped the medal count in Wallis and Futuna four years ago.
Team PNG’s 93 athletes will compete in 10 sports in Vanuatu, including sprint queen Toea Wisil and Commonwealth Games weightlifting champion Steven Kari.
Chef de mission Emma Waiwai said after hosting the 2015 Pacific Games, where PNG also topped the medal tally, there was less pressure but still a strong desire to win.
“The important thing for us is coming here and trying to defend our title that we got four years ago,” Waiwai said.
“Not much pressure but I think the athletes are still feeling it because those who won the medals in 2013 have to come back.
“It would be good if they came back and won those medals again or even going one step better for those who got bronze and silver medals.”
PNG have not entered athletes in the football, rugby sevens, archery or judo but Waiwai believes they still have a host of medal prospects.
“Definitely in athletics, weightlifting, boxing and they’ve introduced the three-on-three basketball and our teams did well at the Melanesian Cup just recently,” she said.
“That was five-on-five but they’ve got the best athletes from there so we look good in winning basketball as well — even netball because we don’t have Fiji and Samoa…but we still feel we’re going to pick up medals.”
Waiwai expected New Caledonia, Fiji and hosts Vanuatu to be their main rivals in Port Vila, with regular contenders Tahiti having opted to boycott the Games.
Three sports — football, tennis and table tennis — started ahead of the opening ceremony.