July 15, 2020

Hawaii with his gold medal at the 2019 Pacific Games

At the 2019 Pacific Games staged in Samoa, Ioane Hawaii of Tuvalu made history by winning the Tuvalu’s first gold medal in a table tennis event, defeating Mateau Vincent Tehei of Tahiti in the men’s seated singles event. 

It was no easy feat for Hawaii who had encountered Tehei earlier in the group stage, winning 3-2 (7,6,-7,-8,5). Hawaii had initially struggled through the group where he was defeated by Kiribati’s Karea Tioti 2-3 but overcame this with a  3-2 win against Shadrack Timothy of the Soloman Islands, solidifying this number one ranking in the group. He went on to defeat Fiji’s Iakoba Taubakoa in the semi-finals in another 5 setter (9,-6,-7,6,7). 

The finals was closely fought match everyone on their edge of the seats, Hawaii recovered from a 2-1 deficit to defeat Tehei 3-2 (9,-9,-5,8,19), winning the game 21-19 in the last set. It was truly a feat of endurance and perservence for Hawaii who had 5 setters against all his opponents that day. 

Desire having represented Tuvalu at Para competitions previously such as the Fiji Open, Oceania Table Tennis, New Zealand Open and Vanuatu Mini-Games, the 2019 Pacific Games was Hawaii’s first appearance at a Pacific Games but he had in with big dreams – to win a medal and raise the Tuvalu flag. 

“I was a bit worried as it was my first time participating at the Pacific Games and the nervousness got to me when I lost my first game against my opponent from Kiribat. I accepted the loss then tried my best to achieve my aim from the start, which was to win a medal for Tuvalu.” 

Hawaii hopes his achievement will bring more light to people with disabilities and bring more light to their achievements.

“I hope this achievement will give a voice to people with disabilities in Tuvalu and change the mindset of people about persons with disabilities. We can also make the country proud. I also wanted to show the Government of Tuvalu, my colleagues and the people at home that people with disabilities can do things to raise the flag of Tuvalu.”

Hawaii currently resides in Fiji and has been a student at The University of the South Pacific since the start of 2019, studying towards a bachelors degree in economics and management in public administrations. In the lead up for the Pacific Games, this made training on top of this university schedule more difficult and found himself struggling to find a balance. 

“It was very difficult to study and train at the same time. I was only able to train once a week. I was trying to do my own training as I live here in Fiji while the athletes were training together in Tuvalu. I did not have a coach and most of my training was playing with other players in Fiji. I thought I was not ready to participate in the Pacific Games but I had set my target and I was going to work towards it.”

Hawaii plans to complete this degree before making a return to the table.