An unexpected heavyweight champion representing the Kingdom of Tonga emerged at Gym 1 on Saturday shocking Samoa fans who packed the venue for the final day of XVI Pacific Games weightlifting.
Aisake Tuitupou, 24, left a home crowd rooting for Samoan gold disappointed when he claimed two Pacific Games gold medals, one for the Clean & Jerk and one for the Total in the 109kg Men's A Division.
It was his very first time on the medal dais. Seeing the flag of the Kingdom of Tonga raised and hearing the national anthem played was "unexpected" and "special," he told Newsline Samoa.
"I definitely didn't expect this. I expected to walk away with a bronze medal because obviously they (Samoa) lift quite a bit more than me. I do feel for them, I know it's tough but I know the kind of people they are and I know they'll bounce back and be better for it," Tuitupou said.
"This is my first time representing Tonga. It's special and I think Tonga and Samoa have a special bond just because of where we come from and the things we've been through in our history. It's definitely special to represent my dad's country and my grandma and my grandpa's. To see the flag raised was something very special for me."
He was one of three lifters, two men and one woman, who competed for Tonga. Tuitupou noted that his great great great grandfather was 100 percent Samoan.
"There's a bit of Samoan blood in me," he said.
"I'm just going to enjoy this moment and enjoy it for the people who have worked with me and for my country and live it up."
Tonga was supposed to host the XVI Pacific Games and its gold medalist said: " I must admit I was disappointed that Tonga didn't host the event."
"It would have been, imagine the flag being raised in Tonga, that would have been something incredible. We're happy Samoa took it on. I've been really impressed from when I landed here," said Tuitupou.
"Our driver Sione picked us up and he's just looked after us everyday and the people here have been very friendly. Honestly, I've been very impressed with everything and the way that Samoa is running this is the best experience I've had in a sporting competition to date."
He planned to celebrate his gold medals with a dinner Saturday night and "celebrate this great accomplishment for our country."
The Tongan weightlifting team of five is scheduled to depart Samoa Sunday morning.
Tuitupou lives in New Zealand.
He won a total of four gold medals and one bronze.
Tuitupou clinched two gold medals in the Pacific Games plus one bronze medal. Two additional gold medals were gleaned in the other weightlifting competitions held in conjunction with the Pacific Games.
Samoa's Lauititi Lui claimed the gold medal for the Snatch and two silver medals in the Clean & Jerk and the Total. Lui set a new Oceania record when he lifted 178kg.
Tuitupou said his next step is to "take care of my body first."
"We've got a few things we've got to sort out but I would like to go the world championships a bit later on in the year," he said.