BAREFOOT GIRL, 14, STEALS SHOW, WINS GOLD IN SAMOA

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SUVA, Fiji (Fiji Times, Sept. 5) – Fourteen-year-old Akesa Drotini of Fiji stole the show at Apia Park Stadium yesterday when she beat veteran runners to win gold in the 5000 metres final.

She clocked a time of 18.37.65s.

The Class Eight student received a standing ovation at Apia Park Stadium when she ran a victory lap while waving the Fiji flag.

"I was confident from the start because I asked God to guide me through the race," she said.

The shy lass, who hails from Nasaibitu village in Wainibuka, Tailevu, dedicated her win to her parents at home, her village and her supporters.

"This win is for my parents back in the village, my families and the athletics team," Drotini said.

"I'd like to thank the senior long distance runners for taking time out to help me. I couldn't have done it without them and the coaches.

"The coaches bought me track shoes but I didn't want to wear it because it was too heavy and I'm not used to it."

Fiji athletics coach Joe Rodan said they were surprised when Akesa won.

"We knew that she would perform well but we didn't expect her to win the gold," a tearful Rodan said.

"But having seen her run today, I can say we have a prospect for the future.

"She's only 14 years old, from the interior, raw talent and not well coached.

"That's simply raw talent that you see out there.

"She ran with experienced athletes who have been running for a very long time. We plucked her out of the Coke Light Games in Suva and today she's proven that she has the talent and capability to become a top athlete in the future."

Sophie Gardon of Tahiti won the silver medal and Poro Gahekave of PNG took bronze.

Drotini will run in the women's 1500m event today and expects to win gold.

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