Cook Islands Aquatic president Romani Katoa with the athletes he presented medals to at the Tokyo Olympic Games. SUPPLIED/21072708
Cook Islands Aquatic president Romani Katoa has described the moment he presented medals in Tokyo as “very unique”.
Katoa was on hand for the women’s 100 metre butterfly medal
ceremony as Canada, China and Australia picked up consecutive gold, silver and
bronze on Sunday - but without physical contact with the athletes.
“It was a very unique experience especially with the
Covid-19 protocols of not making contact with athletes and ensuring safe
distances while wearing masks at all times.”
Katoa said as a FINA, the international swimming bureau,
board member, he was very proud and honoured to present the medals despite
Athletes are now presented medals on plates to avoid
contact, then they place the medal around their neck themselves.
Katoa said he was very nervous as they were the first medals
to be presented for swimming on the second day of competition, and joked he
didn't want to fall over while presenting each medal.
“I also managed to give the athletes the yellow ei pupus
from Mangaia. These were a gift from Numangatini Ariki of Mangaia to give to
athletes, friends and colleagues at the Games,” Katoa said of the special
“It was great and it was fun as we got to present to an
Australian athlete who was part of the 4 x 100 metre freestyle relay team who
broke the world record the day before.
“I also had a good chat with the swimmers about how they
felt in their race, and wished them the best of luck in their next events from
all of us in the Cook Islands.”
Katoa said the Japanese and International Olympic Organising
Committee protocol staff also noted that he was the only one wearing a pareu
shirt under his suit jacket “which is normally a very formal stuffy dress code
with buttoned shirt and tie”.
“However, being from the Cook Islands and Oceania, they said
it was colourful and appropriate so I was allowed to present in my pareu and
suit which drew much support nice and manea from around the venue.”