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Flag Day Games closing ceremony recognizes teams, athletes and coaches

Members of the three netball teams who medalled

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — The top three teams, athletes and coaches from various local sports associations that held tournaments as part of the recent Flag Day festivities, were officially recognized in the inaugural Flag Day Games Closing ceremony held at the Maliu Mai Resort last Saturday evening.

Medal winners in the  athletics women’s one mile event Vaselisa Tavita (bronze), Paula Siaosi (silver), Maria Faumuina (gold), Blanche F. Tua (coach). [photo: Asi A. Fa’asau]

The event which was initiated by the American Samoa National Olympic Committee (ASNOC), filled the spacious Maliu Mai main Fale  and brought together athletes, their families members, coaching and administrative officials of local sports organizations.

Invited guests included Secretary of the Office of Samoan Affairs, PC Mauga Tasi Asuega and his good lady, Vice President of the Senate, Senator Magalei Logovii, senior government officials, executive officials of local sports associations and representative of the Oceania Regional Anti-Doping Organization (ORADO), Quintyn Stephan.

VIP guests at the inaugural Flag Day Games Closing ceremony held at the Maliu Mai Resort last Saturday night. (l-r) Rev. Fulifuli Taveuveu, Mrs. Lagi Asuega, PC Mauga T. Asuega (Secretary of Samoan Affairs), Senator Magalei Logovii (Senate Vice President), James McGuire (Consultant to the Senate President). [photo: Asi A. Fa’asau]

According to ASNOC Secretary General Vaiala Ethan Lake, this was a good chance to have all the sports associations together in one place to be officially recognized for the effort they put in their training and preparations for their respective Flag Day competitions.

They included athletics, netball, volleyball and rugby. The Powerlifting and Bodybuilding Association unfortunately could not attend.

Also recognized that night was the American Samoa Tennis Association Junior Team which recently returned from the East Pacific Qualifiers in Tahiti.

The event started with a prayer delivered by Rev. Fulifuli Taveuveu, after which ASNOC President Tuiatua Ed Imo addressed the gathering and emphasized the importance of commitment of all athletes in their preparations for the next international fixture, where the Territory will be represented.

He pointed out that that the next one will be the Pacific Mini Games in Palau next year and preparations must start now.

Quentin Stephan, the Anti-Doping Control Program Manager for Oceania Regional Anti-Doping Organization (ORADO) based in Fiji, addressed the gathering and explained the role of the institution he works for.

Representative of the Oceania Regional Anti-Doping Organization (ORADO), Quintyn Stephan explains the role of his office which is based in Fiji. [photo: Asi A. Fa’asau]

He clarified that ORADO is the regional office of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), set up to combat the scourge of drugs and doping in sport.

“We recognize that sports is a critical component of the social, economic and politics development of Oceania region countries, and that it ids effective when practiced free of drugs or doping, because the spirit of fair play and mutual respect for everybody is involved,” Stephan stated.

He stated that American Samoa has the potential to become a great Olympic nation if it is steadfast in keeping its ethics of fair play and mutual respect.

“We are here to protect you, serve you and ensure that sports is fair, clean and most importantly safe,” he concluded.

This was followed by ASNOC Secretary General Vaiala who echoed President Tuiatua’s sentiments of beginning preparations early, saying that time was of the essence because many regional and world sporting events are in the very near future like the Olympics in a month’s time.

He also reminded the gathering that the Youth Olympic Games is coming up in 2026 to be held in Dakar, Senegal.

He stated that American Samoa has qualified to compete in these games since 2010 and it will be the first time they will resume after COVID-19 restrictions in 2022.

He urged the up-and-coming junior athletes to set that as a goal to strive for as they begin their preparations, and not to allow any issues or circumstances to distract and prevent them from achieving their goal.

Vaiala also stated that the next Pacific Games will be hosted by Tahiti in 2027 and coaches must put together a training program with that in mind.

This will be followed by the Summer Olympics in Los Angeles in 2028 pointing out that the athletes who are currently 16 years of age have a good chance of qualifying if they faithfully follow their training regimen and eat healthy food.

The ASNOC Secretary General stressed the importance of nurturing and honing the skills of our younger athletes as they will be carrying the flag of American Samoa in future international like the 2029 Pacific Mini Games which American Samoa is bidding to host.

“I see a lot of young athletes out there who may not be old enough for the Olympics this year, but in four years time, you could be competing in the 2028 Olympics in L.A. and another four years time in the 2032 Olympics in Brisbane, Australia,” he said. “All of you have the potential to represent American Samoa in 2032 in Brisbane, but you gotta work for it and the work starts now!”

The Cook Islands and the Solomons have put up their hands for a chance to host the event, but since Solomon Islands was the venue of last year’s Pacific Games, the Cook Islands is the only real threat to the Territory’s aspirations.

Both have hosted past Mini Games, American Samoa in 1997 and the Cook Islands in 1985.

He stated that a contingent from the Pacific Games Council will be arriving on-island in a couple of weeks to conduct a site visit and review the logistics of the Territory’s proposal, which involves a maximum number of sports that can be hosted at 12.

Boxing Association President Mapu Jamias, ASNOC President Tuiatua Ed Imo, Bodybuilder and current Mr. American Samoa Stanley Iakopo.

[photo Asi A. Fa’asau]

Vaiala said that the winning bid will be disclosed in September.