Roberts was surprised, shocked and overwhelmed at the special reception he received on his arrival to Atiu when he landed. “All I was told was, wear a nice shirt,” he grins.
President of Atiu sports – Apii Porio says Wesley was given a special acknowledgement by the people, carried on pa’ata from the airport through the village.
“Our intention was to show how proud we are of our warrior for representing not just the Cook Islands, but Atiu as well,” said Porio.
Roberts was touched at the sentiment. “It was an honour,” he says.
He is pleased with his achievements at the Pacific Games, making history winning the Cook Islands’ first ever gold medal in swimming in the men’s 200 metre freestyle. “As soon as I touched the wall in the pool, I felt really happy.”
Roberts placed second in the final of the men's 1500 metre event and finished third to claim the bronze medal in the 100m freestyle.
Receiving the medals, seeing the country’s flag raised, listening to the national anthem and other Pacific Games competitors come out and support him was special.
The 22-year-old trains 30 hours a week; juggling his swimming sessions and attending university in Sydney that at times can be tough.
Those on the island who have a passion to take up swimming seriously as a sport unfortunately have to move overseas, “to learn proper technique and good water safety skills,” he says, considering the country does not have a pool.
Why swimming? “I enjoy the sport, it’s challenging, at first I did it just for fun, but I have a competitive nature too, so… here I am.”
His Pacific Games medals are now displayed at the Atiu Island Council chamber.
Standing at 6’3”, the softly spoken gold medallist hails from the Kea, Roberts and Teamoke families.
Robert departs today with his partner Phoebe Hines for Sydney, where he will resume training alongside his studies.