The island of Fiji became the first holders of the title of Kurash Champions of Oceania. The Fijian team of Pelasio Rageci, Tabaiki Teremon and Nacanieli Qerewaqa won the first ever team event held in the Oceania region. They beat the New Zealand team by 2 matches to 1 in the final.
It was a closely contested final, held after the Oceania Individual Championships, in Auckland, New Zealand, on 14 November. It was one match each, going into the final match of the competition, after Rageci beat Ben Pilley of NZ by khalol, and Gareth Knight of NZ did the same to Teremon. Qerewaqa responded brilliantly to the pressure, beating David Dill-Russell by khalol in the final match to earn the victory for Fiji.
NZ won the silver medal, and Samoa and Tonga shared the third place with bronze medals.
Earlier in the day, NZ had a clean sweep in the gold medal race, winning every category. Ben Pilley lost to Rageci in the preliminary rounds, but got the better of the Fijian in the final of the lightweights, winning by khalol. The bronze medals were won by Heimuli Faka’osi of Tonga, and Jerome Teeta of Fiji.
Gareth Knight was the class player in the middleweight category, winning all his matches by khalol. He did get a lot of resistance from Rehia Davio of Tahiti in the finals, but Knight still came out on top. Andrew Wong-Pown of New Zealand and Travolta Waterhouse of Samoa shared third spot on the podium.
A lot of excitement was in the air when the heavyweight category was contested. It was expected that Qerewaqa of Fiji was the one to beat, and that was exactly what the much smaller Ryan Dill-Russell of New Zealand did. With some slick tactics, he managed to avoid the big Fijian’s impressive attacks, and eventually won the very interesting semi-finals. On the other side of the draw, older brother David Dill-Russell managed to get past the dangerous Epoki Faka’osi from Tonga in the semi-finals, to set up a “battle of the brothers” in the heavyweight category. David won the match narrowly by chala and became the Oceania heavyweight champion.
The competition was superbly organised by the NZ Kurash Federation and keenly contested by athletes from 5 countries. There was a good spread of medals as all 5 participating countries, won medals at the event. The final medal table is as follows:
New Zealand — 3 gold, 1 silver, 1 bronze
Fiji — 1 silver, 2 bronze
Tahiti — 1 silver
Tonga — 2 bronze
Samoa — 1 bronze
The tournament was held under the rules of the IKA and the organisers have high appreciation for the IKA for assistance to host the event. The IKA was represented at the competition by Ms. Suzette Bezuidenhout, the director of referees of the IKA. A very successful referee’s course was also held and the high standard of refereeing was matched by the high level of play from the athletes.
The inaugural meeting of the Oceania Kurash Confederation was held in Auckland, New Zealand on 15 November 2003. The meeting was held after the conclusion of the first Oceania Kurash championships.
The President of the New Zealand Kurash Federation, Mr. Johan Boshoff, was unanimously elected as President of the Oceania region. Other members on the committee are Mr. Lennie Niit from Tonga, Mr. Semi Epati from Tonga, Mr. Jean-Francois Rebeyrotte from Tahiti, Ms. Deb Downing from NZ, Mr. David Cordery of NZ, and Mr. Tak Hasegawa from Fiji. Ms. Clare Hargrave was elected as Honorary President.
The new committee will formally apply for full membership of the Confederation to the IKA, and the President will attend the IKA Directing Committee on 14 December in Turkey. The immediate priorities of the Confederation include the programme for 2004, as well as the establishment of kurash as an international sport in the region, promoting it in all the countries in Oceania.
Photo features Mr. Boshoff, President of OKC awarding the prize-winners