By: Olkeriil Ngirudelsang
Having 1,700 participants hailing from all 16 states, the 13th Belau Games was as exciting and inspirational as it can be to many athletes. The event was even a source of extreme pride as smaller islands like Hatohobei, Sonsorol and Kayangel surpassed Palau’s larger states to join Peleliu and Koror in the top five list of those with the most medals.
Though this was a 10 days sports event, recruitment of athletes and non-stop practice took place weeks and months earlier. Most basketball courts and gymnasiums around Koror were fully booked as practice venues for athletes eager to win to perfect their skills.
“Our team had only three adults while the rest totaling more than 10 were high school students” stated Didebed, a volleyball player from Angaur. She further said “these high school students were quite nervous at first but after a while of practice and encouragements they became confident”. “We hope to remain one team and participate in the next Belau games; in the meantime, we’ll see if we can participate in the many volleyball tournaments until then”.
A nine years old girl who participated in the beach wrestling competition was one of the highlights of the event. She not only wrestled with girls; she even went on to a wrestling match with fellow boy wrestlers. Getting the silver medal in the end she was a bit disappointed but her team was beyond proud of her.
“One of the main challenges of these games is putting a team together” said Ediloi Seklii, a paddler from team Aimeliik who participated in the canoe racing competition. She stated “with many techniques of sports, we also practice and learn to match our rhythms and play together as team”.
Many sports officials who were tournament directors during this past Belau Games said that they were planning to create summer competitions for their respective sports. This will continue the spark of sports participation as Palau gears up for the 19 years old and under sports tournament next year, Belau games in 2023, and Mini Games in 2025.
15 different types of sports were part of this year’s Belau Games. The youngest athlete was four years age while the oldest was 67 years old.