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The heat is on! Team Cook Islands acclimatises to Honiara conditions

Saturday 18 November 2023 | Written by Losirene Lacanivalu | Published in Pacific Games 2023, Sports


The heat is on! Team Cook Islands acclimatises to Honiara conditions
Cook Islands Touch president/player and flagbearer Julieanne (Julz) Westrupp with Tashi Kopu. LOSIRENE LACANIVALU/23111803

‘We are here to make our people proud’, is the message from Team Cook Islands flagbearer and touch rugby veteran Julieanne Westrupp. Losirene Lacanivalu reports from Honiara, Solomon Islands.

Team Cook Islands athletes are settling in comfortably and preparing to face their opponents as the 2023 Pacific Games officially begins today with the opening ceremony in Honiara, Solomon Islands.

With some federations, such as football, tennis, and basketball teams, having already started their Pacific Games campaign this week, the atmosphere at the Cook Islands Athletes Village at Saint Nicholas College is excitement filled with optimism.

Despite the heat in Honiara, athletes are seen adjusting to the weather and constantly attending training sessions.

Team Cook Islands chef de mission Mark Short with weightlifting coach Luisa Peters and CISNOC’s Jason Lindsay at the Cook Islands camp in Honiara. LOSIRENE LACANIVALU/23111804

Touch rugby does not start until the second week of the Pacific Games, but federation president Julieanne (Julz) Westrupp is already in Honiara, alongside Sevens’ captain Stephen Willis, to serve as flag bearers for Team Cook Islands at the opening ceremony today.

“I needed to be here for the opening. Everything has been really, really good. The people of the Solomon Islands have been really nice,” Westrupp said.

“Our accommodation is really good; the beds are good. You know, I wouldn’t complain about anything, and the food is really good.

“My only issue would be the heat. That’s all that we’re worried about. Otherwise, everything’s been really smooth.”

The touch team consists of 14 men and women.

Westrupp acknowledged that many of the teams had challenges getting to Honiara, especially as they waited for the league team to arrive yesterday.

The league Nines men’s and women’s teams were left stranded in Auckland and Nadi, Fiji, after their flights were cancelled and had to travel through Australia to reach Honiara.

Westrupp yesterday said: “A lot of us have had challenges getting here. We waited for our league team that arrives later this evening. We just want to let our family and friends know that we are keeping them in our hearts and our thoughts and please pray for us.”

“Otherwise, we’re here to do business. We’re here to make our people proud.”

The men’s touch team is in New Zealand for some friendly matches before they make their way to the Solomon Islands.


The women’s football team played their first match on Thursday (Cook Islands time) against New Caledonia, losing 2-5.

Team captain Susan Williams said their performance wasn’t too bad, and they were still finding their footing after a long journey to Honiara.

From left: Cook Islands women’s football captain Susan Williams, with Fiji's Angelina Rekha, Cook Islands TV reporter Nicolea Mateariki and Cook Islands footballer Katarina Piri. Photo: LOSIRENE LACANIVALU/23111801

“We are just regrouping ourselves and getting ourselves ready and equipped to play our next game, which will be on Monday, and we will be playing PNG for that match.”

Williams said they have not had time to watch much of the other matches but have heard that PNG recorded a huge win against Samoa.

“I guess PNG will be a big game for us to look forward to, and just excited to see how we go against them.”


Weightlifting coach Luisa Peters says her two athletes, Tehei Napa and Jerome Tura’s, preparation for the 2023 Pacific Games has been good.

Napa will start her weightlifting competition on Sunday in the 55-kilogram category and Tura on Tuesday in the 89kg division.

“We’ve been here for a couple of days now, which is good for the athletes, as they can get used to the heat, and we’re not used to this kind of heat,” Peters said.

Peters added that they have been able to train with some of the other countries that the two athletes will be competing against.

A veteran of the 2015 Pacific Games in Papua New Guinea, Peters shared some advice she gives her athletes, especially those competing at international tournaments for the first time: “You’ve done all the hard work, you know, just come here, be humble.”

“And just keep in mind all the hard work that you’ve been doing in the past. This is where you showcase not only to the people but also to yourselves, put all that hard work into action.”

Peters acknowledged all the supporters, saying it has been a big year for weightlifting as they have travelled a lot for competitions this year.


Tennis Cook Islands president Davina Hosking-Ashford spoke to Cook Islands News on the second day of the team’s matches yesterday.

Cook Islands’ Lillian Maui in action at the Pacific Games in Honiara, Solomon Islands. Cook Islands women’s team lost to Guam by 0-3 and played Samoa yesterday in Group A team competition. Pacific Games Solomon Islands/23111702

Hosking-Ashford said that on Thursday, the women played well but went down 0-3 in the tie, but the girls gave it their all against Guam.

The men played against Nauru on day one and won 2-1 in the tie.

Tamarua Payne (Sebastian) won his singles, and he partnered with Jason Pierre to win their doubles in their first match.

On day two, the women played Samoa and finished two singles of their tie, but both went down.

Hosking-Ashford said they did play well.

On Sunday, there will be more team events for the boys, and the girls might have a bye, she said. And on the following day are semifinals and finals, followed by individual events.

Despite the scorching sun, Hosking-Ashford said the team was keeping in good spirits and they are loving the tennis matches.