Bare chested men in grass skirts parading onto the pool deck for a medal presentation? Clearly we weren’t at Sopac! Bula from Damodar National Aquatic Centre in Suva, Fiji and the 11th Oceania Championships.
Australia’s 20 strong swimming team, including Abbotsleigh’s Natasha (Tash) Ramsden, was competing against the Cook Islands, Fiji, Guam, Hawaii, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, New Caledonia, New Zealand, Northern Mariana Islands, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa and Tonga.
Australian Team Leader and dual Olympian Martin Roberts explained that “this event was an outstanding opportunity for our young pool and open water athletes to develop their international performance skills”. Competition was particularly fierce because several athletes from other nations were preparing for the Rio Olympics.
Australia won a total of 50 medals, and finished up runners up to New Zealand. Natasha swam 50m fly, 50m and 100m freestyle, and several relays. She returned with 2 gold and 3 silver medals including a new Oceania record in the mixed 4x50m freestyle relay team.
“What an honour”, posted Tash, “Thank you Fiji for hosting such a welcoming and successful meet – it was such a privilege being able to represent Australia and meet new international friends along the way”.