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Update: 2019 Pacific Games

The American Samoa weightlifting team after winning 8 medals during the 2015 Pacific Games in PNG. The American Samoa National Olympic Committee (ASNOC) is aiming to raise the bar for AS in the upcoming 2019 Pacific Games set to be hosted in Samoa. Read story for details.  [photo: AF]
Preparations for local athletes will start next year

Samoa is welcoming the recent announcement that they will be hosting the 2019 Pacific Games, and this is equally great news for American Samoa in terms of preparations, travel and accommodations.

Samoa won the hosting rights after it was unanimously approved by the Pacific Games Council Executive Board. This will be the third time Samoa has hosted the Pacific Games. The first was back in 1983 and again in 2007.

The independent state received the news last Friday after the Pacific Games Council officially announced its decision, congratulating the Pacific Games Association of Samoa on its selection.

According to a Pacific Games Council press release, Guam and Tahiti also submitted their bids to be the next host.

But there were concerns over whether Guam's local government would have the funds to host, while Tahiti has withdrawn its bid due to the lack of government support.

Samoa received the green light after the Tongan government in May this year, cancelled on hosting the event, citing the “enormous challenge of mobilization finance and the impact of the cost of Tonga’s budget deficit”, according to media reports.

Samoa submitted its bid to host the upcoming Pacific Games earlier this year in June.

In his June 30, 2017 letter to the President of the Pacific Games Council Executive Board, Vidhya Lakhan, Samoa Prime Minister, Hon. Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi asked the Board to give Samoa the chance to host the Games.

He said Samoa's facilities are available, and there is an MOU with China to further upgrade the country's sports facilities between now and 2018.

"As leader of our government, I once again reiterate our interest in promoting sports through our hosting of the next Pacific Games," Tuilaepa wrote. "As a sportsman myself, I intend to participate as a competitor in archery, chasing my gold medal which I missed in 2007 in Apia - and to compete again is convenient for me if the Games are held here.”

After submitting Samoa’s bid to the Pacific Games Council, and although a decision had not been officially announced, Tuilaepa appointed a Planning Committee to lead the country’s preparations in hosting the Games, under his leadership as chairman.

Members of the Pacific Games Council including Mr. Lakhan travelled to Samoa to evaluate all the sports facilities during a three-day visit, after receiving Samoa’s bid.

The Council visited all the proposed competition venues, as well as the schools that will house the athletes. There were also meetings held with the Prime Minister and cabinet ministers who are involved in all the activities for the Games.

In his response after the evaluation, Mr. Lakhan said that Samoa is an experienced and capable recent host of major events.

According to a press release posted on the Pacific Games Council website, Lakhan said the delegation was very impressed with all the elements of the evaluation visit, including the sporting facilities which have been well maintained since Samoa’s hosting of the 2007 South Pacific Games, and the 2015 Commonwealth Youth Games, and now require a minimal level of refurbishment to be ready to host the Pacific Games in 2019.

“The sporting facilities are all in one place and the full and financial support of the Samoan Prime Minister and government gave the Samoa Pacific Games Association’s bid the winning edge,” said Lakhan.

Representatives from various local sports associations told Samoa News that the decision to have Samoa host the next Pacific Games is a great opportunity for all of our athletes.

General Secretary of the American Samoa National Olympic Committee (ASNOC), Ethan Lake told Samoa News that this is great news for American Samoa’s preparations for the upcoming Pacific Games.

“We’re quite happy about Samoa hosting because not only do we have strong support but as far as travel and accommodations are concerned, I think it is good for both Samoas."

According to Lake, the key is to build a close relationship between Samoa and American Samoa, and our athletes should start practicing with each other by the beginning of next year.

“Definitely it does make it more convenient for us to participate, mostly because it’s a year before the Olympics, and it’s a great opportunity for us to prepare,” said Lake.

When asked about the ASNOC's next step in terms of pushing our preparations forward, Lake said they’re looking to start next year.

“We received the confirmation from the Samoa National Olympic Committee that Samoa will host the next Pacific Games, and we have a new ASNOC management right now,” said Lake. “We have a lot of things to work on, and to be honest, things to be straightened out. We’re looking at next year as the year that we'll have a lot more activities between the two Samoas.”

Lake said that the plan is to develop our athletes' skills and knowledge, so that we can win more medals in the future.

American Samoa won 8 medals - including 3 gold - in competition in 9 out of the 28 sporting events that were offered during the XV Pacific Games in Papua New Guinea in 2015, including volleyball (indoor), beach volleyball, boxing, weightlifting, softball, tennis, basketball, golf, and bodybuilding.

While American Samoa is aiming to win more medals in future international competitions around the Pacific, including the Pacific Games and Oceania Championships, some local sports officials believe that in order for American Samoa to have good results when competing at the international level, there must be good training facilities and more certified coaches for all sports federations on island, people who can train local athletes to become more skillful and be ready to compete with top athletes from around the world.

“Why I am saying this is because ever since other Pacific countries have had a full team of certified coaches, trainers, and referees for all of their sports federations, results from all international sports competitions they’ve competed in are going up to the top. They're winning more medals during Pacific and Mini Games going back 20 years. So in order for American Samoa to be on the top of the medal tally list for every international sports competition around the Pacific, they need to have a full team of certified coaches, trainers, and referees on island to train our athletes,” said one local sports official.

Samoa News should point out that one of the biggest problems American Samoa sports teams have is funding - to not only train athletes, but also to pay travel and accommodation expenses for them to compete off-island at international events.