From Coconut Café to Kayaking Glory: Kofela speaks of journey to first Pacific Games
By Alfred E. Pagepitu
Against all odds, a local sea wall builder in his 40s, managing a hectic schedule, not only secured a place within the Solomon Islands Outrigger Canoe Federation but also clinched a coveted bronze medal in Kayaking.
His journey from the construction site to kayaking glory unfolds the inspiring story of dedication and triumph in the 17th Pacific Games.
Meet Saeni Kofela from North Malaita, raised in the Gou’ulu village. His job, locally specialized as a sea wall builder, takes an unexpected turn towards victory, narrating a tale of triumph in the Sol2023.
Despite being a maintenance employee at Coconut Café, his inspiration sparked at the sight of Va’a and Kayaking squads training at the Point Cruz area.
He embraced his newfound interest, took on the challenge, and emerged victorious in the Men’s Kayak Double (K2) 16km marathon, at DC Park.
Saeni Kofela and Paul Maesua achieved a Bronze in the Men’s Kayak Double (K2) 16 km marathon at DC Park yesterday (Thursday 30 November). Adding to their success, they also secured bronze in the K2 500-meter sprint earlier on Tuesday.
In an interview with SIBC, Saeni revealed that his interest in kayaking was ignited at the Coconut Café.
Observing others when engaged in their training sessions at the café ignited his interest, eventually leading him to try Kayaking himself.
Reflecting on his journey, he stated, “My interest in competing in Kayaking slowly began at the Coconut Café.”
“I was initially hesitant to approach other paddlers and join them, but over time, as I interacted with them, I managed to become part of the team.”
“I understand the importance of my job, which I love and consider my bread and butter. To balance both, I created my own timetable, ensuring that after completing my job during official working hours, I dedicate time to my training.”
“This marks my debut in the Pacific Games, and I have never participated in any competition prior to this,” he said.
“I am grateful to God, my friends, and teammates who have consistently supported and motivated me.”
“A special acknowledgment goes to my coaches, trainers, and other officials who have been the driving force behind the entire team,” said Mr Saeni.
Reflecting on his training sessions, he said he only had two weeks to prepare for this sport. Despite the limited time, his hope was to secure the Gold medal.
“This is because I have confidence in myself, and I share the same belief with my friend, Paul Maesua.
“We both had a mindset geared towards achieving Gold, holding a strong belief that we could make it happen. However, we ended up with the Bronze medal, and though it wasn’t the Gold we aimed for, it’s still a source of pride.”
He added, winning the Bronze medal for Solomon Islands is significant as it marks their first appearance competing against other Pacific Islanders who have already participated in Olympic and other major worldwide competitions.
“I am incredibly thankful for that,” he expressed. Describing the moment when the paddles landed in his hands, he reflected on telling himself that the day marked the final opportunity to showcase his training for his country, community, families, and all his wantoks (friends or countrymen).
Saeni emphasized that the victory, even though it was a Bronze, has brought satisfaction both for himself and his counterpart. He believes that this achievement will be recorded in Solomon Islands sports history.
He expressed his newfound love for this sport and shared his plans to introduce it to his village. With enthusiasm, he expressed his commitment to encouraging those with potential in paddling to join up for future games.
Looking ahead, he stated, “From here, I will continue to inspire other Solomon Islanders to embrace this sport and make it one of our popular games played throughout the Solomon Islands.'”
He said that he now loves this sport and he will introduce it to his village and encourage those who have potential in paddling to join up for other games coming up in the future. –ENDS///