Team Cook Islands members gathered at Atu Pare Marae in Arorangi on Saturday for a blessing ceremony by the House of Ariki and Aronga Mana.
At the Ui Ariki compound, Team Cook Islands officials and athletes were led to the marae with a turou welcome where House of Ariki Kaumaiti (president) Tou Ariki and traditional chiefs shared wise words with the team.
From his seat at the head of the marae, Tou Ariki told the athletes that their traditional leaders were already proud of them. He said the athletes had already done the hard work through training to be selected for the team and the time had come to put those skills to the test on the field.
He added that whenever the team lifted the Cook Islands flag, it would be a proud moment.
“When the flag goes up because you have been victorious on the field, know that we are proud of you and even if you don’t win – we are still very proud.”
He also encouraged the athletes to put their faith in the Lord.
His words were reflected by the chiefs on the marae who each gave their words of wisdom and positive encouragement to the team ahead of their departure in three weeks’ time to the Pacific Games in Papua New Guinea.
“Go for broke,” said Tetio Kaisara Pa ki Tonga Ariki of Pukapuka.
Outside the Marae, more words of encouragement were shared for the athletes.
“Aere e Rangatira, oki mai e Rangatira,” said Koutu Nui President Turi Mataiapo Maria Henderson in her passionate speech.
Papa Dan Kamana, one of the island’s sporting legends, didn’t mince his words.
He reminded the athletes that the national anthem would only be played if they won the gold medal and the gold medal was well within their reach if they’d trained hard and put their faith in the Lord.
With those wise words the athletes were blessed by the Orometua before being treated to a feast of the island’s finest food to further fuel the athletes’ afternoon training sessions.