Lifters Heave Gold For Samoa

About the author:

Tina Mata'afa-Tufele is a Pasifika journalist that has been writing and covering news related to the Samoan experience for over a decade. She's written for Samoa News in American Samoa, (covering news from Hawaii, the U.S.

  •  Sikolasitika Isaia proudly shows her medals
    Sikolasitika Isaia proudly shows her medals

Weightlifter Nevo Ioane swept an entire division category to collect three XVI Pacific Games gold medals on Thursday, adding to a gold-laden collection that has become the norm in Samoa's weightlifting empire.

He added to the gold rush set in motion by teammates John Tafi and lady lifter Sekolasitika Isaia, when weightlifting opened the day before at Gym 1.

Well known weightlifting coach Paul Coffa, who contributed to building weightlifting in Samoa, said what the nation currently has is "an empire."

The weightlifting program was built from "nothing," said Coffa, the general secretary of weightlifting for the governing bodies of Oceania and the Commonwealth.

"It's fantastic what Samoa is doing with Jerry...when I go back to 2005 when the Prime Minister wanted me here, there was nothing, there was no weightlifting," he said at Gym 1.

"We spent three years and we developed an empire and now Jerry is taking it to the next level which is fantastic. Together with Jerry, we are putting up this huge show. I am assisting as much as possible the officials here from Oceania."

Samoa's program keeps winning gold after gold after gold under Coach Tuaopepe Jerry Wallwork. Gold is the standard set by the coach.

Each gold medal, each silver or bronze is an amazing feat for a small nation like Samoa that, like its Pacific counterpart, has limited resources.

Coffa coaches Pacific and Commonwealth lifters and when their training is complete, "they go back and win gold medals for their country," he said.

"The Pacific has got great potential so as Papua New Guinea, so as Nauru, Kiribati, Solomon Islands, everyone has got potential," Coffa said.

He notes the program at Samoa doesn't need any of his assistance.

"Samoa doesn't need any assistance. They are well organized, they are well structured. We are working together but they are well structured," Coffa said.

"What we need to do is develop countries which are not fully developed. PNG is developed, Nauru is developing, Kiribati is  developing, so as Solomon Islands. Samoa is on top of that. You don't need any work at all here. You've got an empire here which is good. God bless you."

Asked if the Pacific has any gold medal contenders for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, he said "it's not easy."

"They have a very very high standard," Coffa said.

"The Pacific doesn't have an Ele (Opeloge)."

The Pacific Games is one of six events that qualifies competitors for the Olympics.

Ioane won five medals total on Thursday. His first three gold medals were for the 67kg Snatch, the Clean & Jerk and a third for the highest total from both lifts.

He picked up a fourth gold medal in the Oceania competition and also set a new record.

His fifth gold medal is a Commonwealth medal.

Isaia won one gold medal (Oceania-Women Junior 59kg, Group A) and one silver medal  (Commonwealth-Women-Junior 59 kg, Group A).

Tafi won 13 medals total on Wednesday. He has two gold medals and two silver medals (one each from the Oceania Youth Champs and Commonwealth Junior Champs). He won nine bronze medals from the Pacific Games, the Oceania Youth Champs and the Commonwealth Junior Champs.

That gives Samoa 20 medals in weightlifting alone. Three of them won by Ioane are Pacific Games gold medals.

Coach Tuaopepe said his team is going for gold and only gold. That mentality will also be taken to the 2020 Olympics.

Samoa's heavyweights will lift Friday and Saturday.