AGANA, GUAM -- Forget the pole vault and the shot put. You get no points for the discus or the javelin throw. In fact, scratch the entire decathlon.
In the Micronesian Games, the measure of athletic versatility revolves largely around coconuts. Specifically, scampering up trees for them, husking them and flinging spears at them as they bob in the surf.
These tests of speed, strength and accuracy are part of the Micronesian All-Around, a five-event competition that organizers of the northern Pacific's version of the Olympic Games hoped would celebrate the island region's native skills. The other two events are swimming and diving for objects.
Instead, adding the "Pacific pentathlon" to these games, held March 26 to April 2, apparently showed how much the old talents have deteriorated.
Certainly, most of the fan interest was reserved for such U.S.-introduced pastimes as baseball, the most popular sport here, and basketball. With nearly 2,000 participants from eight island groups, the Micronesian Games also featured softball, volleyball, tennis, weightlifting, wrestling, swimming and track and field.
Two of the games' more distinctive sports -- outrigger canoe racing and underwater spearfishing -- had their devotees as well. In fact, the outrigger race generated the competition's biggest controversy when the two-man team from Pohnpei paddled furiously to apparent victory Wednesday, only to be disqualified for a "lane violation" that gave Guam the gold medal. In the women's doubles race, more bad luck struck when the Pohnpei canoe capsized, again allowing Guam to take the gold.
As for the spearfishing, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands emerged with the heaviest total catch in perhaps the only competition in which the contestants eat their trophies. After the three-day contest, which was held despite rough seas and poor visibility off the coast of this U.S. territory, the competitors all got together at Umatac Bay for a big fish fry.
But what the Micronesian All-Around lacked in popularity, athletic skill and nutritional value, it seemed to make up in media interest and official enthusiasm.
"This is great," Guam Gov. Joseph F. Ada told reporters. "This is one of the things that I requested to be a part of the Micronesian Games to bring back the real cultural competitiveness of Micronesia."
The all-around proved to be a showcase for Palau. A tiny island group of about 15,000 people that calls itself a republic, Palau is actually the world's only remaining U.N. trust territory and is administered and bankrolled by the United States. It is perhaps better known for some of the world's finest diving and snorkeling sites and for its variety of marine life, including clams that weigh up to 1,000 pounds.
Ngirapatutang Ldsel narrowly won the men's all-around for Palau, thanks in part to his skill in throwing a spear from the beach at three coconuts floating in the water about 20 feet away. He was the only contestant to sink his spear into a coconut twice. Ldsel also showed mastery of the sports quote.
"I just want to say thanks to the Heavenly Father for the fans and everybody who was watching," the Pacific Daily News quoted him as saying after his victory. "It made me feel all right."
Only two islands, Palau and Pohnpei, entered the women's all-around competition, which substituted coconut grating for coconut-tree climbing in deference to local decorum. Julita Belibei of Palau took the gold, and a teammate won the silver.
"Certain native skills have eroded, and it showed," said one of the games organizers from Guam, the largest (population 140,000) and most cosmopolitan of the Micronesian islands. In truth, he acknowledged, Guam's lone entry in the all-around was a migrant from another island.
"Our guys just don't want to be climbing those trees," he said.
The regional games were first held in 1969 but were not repeated until 1990. Now organizers hope to make them a more regular, Olympic-style event in Micronesia, which encompasses some 2,100 isles and atolls across a stretch of ocean the size of the continental United States.
The overall winner of the 1994 games was Guam, followed by the Northern Marianas, which includes the U.S.-affiliated islands of Saipan, Tinian and Rota and totals more than 44,000 people.
A strong showing also was delivered by the Marshall Islands, a U.S.-funded "republic" of more than 1,000 small, flat outcroppings of coral. The site of atomic testing on Bikini and Eniwetok atolls and a U.S. missile range on Kwajalein, the Marshalls are home to about 46,000 generally gentle people whose traditional greeting, "yokwe yuk," means "love to you."
Other medal winners included Nauru, an island 1,600 miles southeast of Guam. Pohnpei (formerly Ponape), Chuuk (formerly Truk) and Kosrae fielded separate teams although they are part of the Federated States of Micronesia. The fourth member, Yap, did not send a team. It is perhaps the most traditional of the islands, known for its giant stone money measuring up to 12 feet in diameter and weighing as much as five tons, which wags have dubbed the world's hardest currency.
Completing the medals with a bronze was lowly Kosrae, a volcanic island of 7,000 people described in a Micronesian guidebook as a "casual, unpretentious backwater." Its inhabitants have long exuded a "certain air of innocence," it says, except when they massacred entire ship crews in the 1800s for having slept with local women without permission.