As the 2019 Pacific Games closed Saturday in Apia, Samoa, it’s important that Guam’s finest athletes receive recognition for a job well done, regardless of whether a medal was earned.
The two-week affair featured the best in the region and was the culmination of months, even years, of work for many of the athletes. During the quadrennial two-week event, Guam’s athletes earned not only 19 medals, but respect for the island. Several island records – some decades old – fell during the competition and others hit personal bests in sports where medals are determined by tenths of a meter or hundredths of a second.
Here is the list of medaling performances in Samoa:
Joshster Andrew, one of Guam’s most celebrated judo practitioners, won the island’s first gold medal on July 16. Competing in the senior men's under 81-kilograms division, Andrew defeated Tahiti's Toanui Lucas.
"I’m so honored to be out here representing Guam, and beyond thankful with all my judo coaches and family that supported me since day one," Andrew said. "I fight for them, I fight for myself and I'll fight for you, if you call Guam home."
The 21-year-old, who lives and trains in Japan, is now looking to competing in the upcoming World Judo Championships in Tokyo, Japan, with the ultimate goal of performing well at the 2024 Paris Olympics.
The Guam men’s national basketball team, with a convincing finals victory over Tahiti, secured the island’s second gold medal on July 17, an unbeaten run that spans two Pacific Games. The gold-medal defense was epic as the men's team steamrolled through much of pool play, dropping their opponents by double digits before facing a tough Tahiti in the final stand.
“I’m just so proud of this team for finishing strong and overcoming a well-played game by Tahiti,” head coach EJ Calvo said. “We pulled together to earn the victory and accomplish our goal.”
The 3x3 men's basketball team followed up that unbeaten run with another of their own, dropping medal favorites Fiji in the championship game. Ben Borja hit the long two, sidestepping a Fiji defender for the 20-18 win to cement the island's status as a basketball powerhouse among the island nations. Leading Guam to victory, AJ Carlos, Mike Sakazaki, Ben Borja II and Seve Susuico made up the four-member team.
The wins were a small step towards the long-term goal of becoming a viable competitor in the Asia-Pacific region, said Calvo, recognizing the island still has a lot of work to accomplish if they want to become an elite program and compete against bigger countries with a larger playing pool to choose from and government funding to ease the way.
"Our long-term plan has to be big!" he said after the 3x3 gold-medal performance. "The Pacific games is our short term goal, however, it is a step towards bigger competitions and opportunities."
The 5x5 tournament was a prequalifier to the 2021 FIBA Asia Cup, which opens the door to more training and competition opportunities for Guam basketball.
Three Guam players – Destiny Castro, Daren Hechanova and Tai Wesley made the all-tournament team, a testament of their hard work and the impact they made on their respective teams.
Guam’s weightlifters captured seven medals and won the island’s first medals on July 9.
Powering the way, Jacinta Sumagaysay, Dayamaya Calma and Dayalani Calma were the first Guamanians to get their hands on the precious hardware.
Dayalani Calma, the first to deliver, earned bronze in the 45-kg clean and jerk. Her sister, Dayamaya, added to the island's war chest in the 49-kg category, picking up silver in the snatch, bronze in the clean and jerk, and silver for the overall performance.
Sumagaysay earned three silver medals in the 55-kg division. Sumagaysay gained silver in the clean and jerk, snatch and total for an all-silver finish.
The following day, Dayanara Calma, the eldest Calma sister, set a new Guam record in the snatch of 70 kilograms for the 59-kg division. Her pull was good enough to qualify for the 2019 World Weightlifting Championships, which will be held Sept. 16 to 25 in Pattaya, Thailand.
“I am very happy,” Dayanara Calma said. “I hit my personal best in competition.”
The Pacific Games doubled as the Oceania Weightlifting Championships, where the team picked up four more medals. Dayamaya Calma earned two gold medals and silver, while Sumagaysay grabbed a silver.
All credited coach Edgar Molinos with creating programs that could help them reach full potential.
It wasn't always easy, said Dayalani Calma, citing five days a week with hours in the gym to train. She added the preparation and training were key to ensuring the team was ready to handle the challenges of competition.
"Every single one of my teammates has trained and sacrificed so much for this, especially our coach," she said.
"I couldn't be more proud and happy of what my athletes have accomplished during this Pacific Games," said Molinos. "All our grueling workouts and countless hours we all put in, the dedication, trust of the program and the respect have paid off ... the sky is the limit for us.
Benjamin Schulte claimed Guam’s only medal in the 50-meter breaststroke, snatching silver.
“I can't tell you how happy I am right now!" said Schulte, whose time was also good enough to set a new Guam national record. "I went a 28.75 (seconds) tonight. A half-second (personal record) is huge, especially for a sprint event, and I'm so excited about it!”
Coming into the games, Mike Ho, Guam's taekwondo contingent head coach, wanted to build upon the group's 2015 bronze-medal performance.
With all five athletes earning medals, not only did the team meet that goal, they shattered it.
Alexander Allen and Joseph Ho earned a silver and bronze medal, respectively, on July 16. Allen competed in the men's 68-74-kg division. Joseph Ho beat Kiribati's top fighter in the men's bantam 58-63-kg division to make it to the medal rounds. However, he lost to an Australian competitor to take home the bronze finish.
The next day, the taekwondo team, made it a clean sweep with three more athletes medaling.
Leon Ho earned bronze competing in the men’s 58-kg division. Amber Toves won silver competing in the women’s 57-kg division. Tierra-Lynn Chargualaf won silver competing in the women’s 53-kg division.
“This is history ... for Guam Taekwondo,” coach Ho said. “Every single athlete train(ed) three to four hours a day to prepare for this event."
The Guam track and field team walked away with three medals, several personal bests and a new Guam record.
The island's 4x400 team – Richelle Tugade, Regine Tugade, Madison Packbier and Alison Bowman – dropped a 20-year-old record by more than a second.
"My proudest moment overall is with our relay," said Regine Tugade. "This relay record overshadows any individual record I already own because it takes not one, but four talented athletes who work hard and (are) as driven as the other (to make it happen)."
Genina Criss, who cut her time by more than 7 seconds, earned a silver in the women's 1,500 at 4:51.36.
Criss credited her training in Fukuoka, Japan, and Gold Coast, Australia, under the Oceania Athletics Association scholarship with learning to run more efficiently. Her next aim is to represent Guam at the 2020 Japan Olympics.
Bowman laughingly joked that her goal was to "not die" during the 3,000-meter steeplechase, which features obstacles and water pits for runners to jump over. While she didn't set a personal record, Bowman conquered the course, securing a bronze for the island.
Derek Mandell left semiretirement to see what he could still accomplish in competitive racing. His early track runs weren't what the Olympian visualized. However, the last day of competition served as a redemption for one of the island's more decorated runners, as he ran a smart race to pull a bronze finish in the half-marathon.
"It was fun to test myself against the best athletes this region has to offer," said Mandell, adding he's found the motivation to get back into competitive running again. "I feel I can be back up to the level I was before I semiretired."
Mandell said he has a marathon in December, and then he will see where the running journey takes him.
Guam's 2019 Pacific Games medals
Basketball, 5x5 men’s
Basketball, 3x3 men’s
Judo, Joshter Andrew, senior men's under 81-kilograms
Athletics, Genina Criss, 1,500-meter
Swimming, Benjamin Schulte, 50-meter breaststroke
Taekwondo, Alexander Allen, men's 68-74-kg
Taekwondo, Tierra-Lynn Chargualaf, women’s 53-kg
Taekwondo, Amber Toves, women’s 57-kg
Weightlifting, Dayamaya Calma, 49-kg clean and jerk
Weightlifting, Dayamaya Calma, 49-kg snatch
Weightlifting, Dayamaya Calma, 49-kg overall
Weightlifting, Jacinta Sumagaysay, 55-kg clean and jerk
Weightlifting, Jacinta Sumagaysay, 55-kg snatch
Weightlifting, Jacinta Sumagaysay, 55-kg overall
Athletics, Alison Bowman, 3,000-meter steeplechase
Athletics, Derek Mandell, half-marathon
Taekwondo, Joseph Ho, men's bantam 58-63-kg
Taekwondo, Leon Ho, men’s 58-kg
Weightlifting, Dayalani Calma, 45-kg clean and jerk
2019 Pacific Games medals tally
(Country – Gold, Silver, Bronze, Total)
American Samoa – 1, 5, 7, 13
Australia – 33, 9, 14, 56
Cook Islands – 5, 5, 8, 18
Federated States of Micronesia – 1, 0, 0, 1
Fiji Islands – 35, 38, 43, 116
Guam – 3, 10, 6, 19
Kiribati – 6, 10, 9, 25
Marshall Islands – 0, 1, 2, 3
Nauru – 12, 6, 16, 34
New Caledonia – 76, 55, 51, 182
New Zealand – 8, 10, 6, 24
Niue – 1, 1, 2, 4
Northern Mariana Islands – 3, 1, 0, 4
Norfolk Island – 2, 2, 3, 7
Palau – 0, 0, 0, 0
Papua New Guinea – 38, 57, 35, 130
Samoa – 38, 42, 45, 125
Solomon Islands – 4, 13, 19, 36
Tahiti – 35, 39, 45, 119
Tokelau – 0, 0, 1, 1
Tonga – 9, 5, 14, 28
Tuvalu – 1, 1, 1, 3
Vanuatu – 8, 5, 12, 25
Wallis and Futuna – 3, 6, 2, 11
*Medal tally was gathered from the 2019 Pacific Games website