New Caledonia's Mathieu Annonier (right) won gold in the men's under 84kg individual kumite event ©Port Moresby 2015

New Caledonia and Fiji shared eight gold medals between them on the opening day of the Port Moresby 2015 karate competition at the Taurama Aquatic and Leisure Centre here today. 

The two countries split all of the kata golds in the day’s first session, three going to New Caledonia and one to Fiji, before earning two each in the kumite events.

New Caledonia’s Angelique Mondoloni won gold in the women’s individual kata at the expense of Fiji’s defending champion Naomi Bakani.

Papua New Guinea’s Crystal Elizabeth Raka Mari and Vamule Vassy Mata Lango both claimed bronze.

Bakani was part of Fiji’s successful women’s kata team, however, as she and compatriots Adi Drodrolagi Kidia and Kalei Seniloli finished ahead of New Caledonia’s trio, made up of Mondoloni, Amelia Belmonte and Laura Rothery.

Completing the podium were hosts Papua New Guinea, represented by Sarah Ande, Joancherry Revui and Gantianna Joseph.

Vu Duc Minh Dack secured another gold for New Caledonia in the men’s individual kata, and helped increase his country's tally even further when combining with Kevyn Pognon and Arnaud Saturnin in the team event.

Fiji’s Anthony Yam had to settle for silver in the individual event, with Tahiti’s Noa Lucas and Papua New Guinea’s Cosmas Walio Saliawali in second and third respectively.

Saliawali, along with Lonard Robinson Gariadi and Nigel Bana, was also a member of Papua New Guinea’s bronze medal-winning team, finishing behind Fiji’s James Lenoa, brother Pita and Tevita Tamanigaunatawamudu.

A total of 10 gold medals were won on the opening day of karate action
A total of 10 gold medals were won on the opening day of karate action ©Photos of my Papua New Guinea/Facebook
Bakani bounced back from losing her individual kata crown by maintaining her grip on the women’s under 68 kilograms kumite title with a 6-1 win against New Caledonia’s Romina Rambans in the final

“This one was more difficult,” said Bakani.

“After 2011 I stopped kumite, so I just focused on kata.

“I started doing kumite [again] last year and I’m still trying to grasp all the knowledge that I had forgotten, so this year is tough.”

The Solomon Islands’ Janet Lydia Gwai and Papua New Guinea’s Doris Karomo came away with the bronze medals.

Bakani’s team mate Tamanigaunatawamudu took gold in the men’s under 67kg kumite, defeating New Caledonia’s Waixen Gregory Waikata, as the Solomon Islands’ Ashley John Marigeni and Papua New Guinea's Dominic Sipapi came third.

New Caledonia’s kumite golds came from Kenny Guillem in the men’s over 84kg and Mathieu Annonier in the men’s under 84kg event.

Guillem defeated Vanuatu’s Johnny Rosses Laau 9-0 in his gold medal bout, while Annonier won 4-1 against home favourite Vincent Bougen in a contest that was much tighter than the final score would suggest.

James Lenoa and the Solomon Islands’ Robert Gregory Anita were the two over 84kg bronze medallists, with Anita’s fellow countryman Selwyn Kuru and Wallis and Futuna’s Paino Talikilagi Mulikihaamea rounding off the under 84kg podium.

The two-day karate competition is taking place at the Taurama Aquatic and Leisure Centre
The two-day karate competition is taking place at the Taurama Aquatic and Leisure Centre ©Photos of my Papua New Guinea/Facebook

There were also gold medals for Lango and Tahiti’s Vaitiare Tehaameamea in the women’s under 50kg and women’s over 68kg categories respectively.

Lango triumphed 7-1 in her final against Papua New Guinea’s Jacklyn Barney, while Tehaameamea recorded a 4-0 win against another home athlete, Gewa Bianca Rupa.

New Caledonia dominated the field at the last two Pacific Games that karate has featured in, Nouméa 2011 and Suva 2003, but Fiji showed they are also a force to be reckoned with.

In 2003, New Caledonia won 10 golds to Fiji’s four, and in 2011, it was nine golds to six.

The second and final day of Pacific Games karate action is due to take place tomorrow.