Weightlifting celebrated sweet success at Tuana’imato last night during the S.A.S.N.O.C Sports Awards.
Not only did the athletes clean up the bulk of the awards – including the Supreme Athlete award – the coaches and administrators were also honoured.
But the evening belonged to Mary Opeloge, who collected the Sportswoman of the Year Award as well as the Supreme Award, one chosen from all the award winners.
Mary was congratulated by Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi, who presented her the award, sponsored by S.A.S.N.O.C.
“Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would achieve something like this,” she said through tears when she accepted the award.
“There are so many people to thank including Prime Minister Tuilaepa, our coach Tuaoepe Jerry Wallwork, our supporters and all my families.” Last night’s award was fitting for the quiet achiever. Although she has been in outstanding form for Samoa during the past years winning regional competitions, she is often in the shadow of her older sister Ele Opeloge. There was no Ele last night.
“I can’t believe it,” she said. “I have finally made it and I am so proud and humbled. It’s an honour.
“I came here tonight not expecting anything because I know there are a lot of tough nominees so to be named the overall winner is truly a blessing from God.
“All the pain from the hardcore trainings and the sleepless nights and days have paid off.”
But this is not the end for the star.
“I still have a long way to go,” she said. “We have the Oceania Championship next month and the Olympics in August so I still have to work hard to get to the top.
“[But] for tonight I’m just going to enjoy it and I also have to acknowledge the support from my friends, families and my parents.
“Most especially my Coach Tuaopepe Jerry Wallwork, he is the one that I should be thanking because without him I wouldn’t be here. He is a strict coach and I know if it wasn’t for his strictness, I wouldn’t be able to achieve all of this tonight.”
Coach Tuaopepe also took the podium. He won the Coach of the Year award. Weightlifting also cleaned up the Junior Sportswoman and Sportsman awards through Feagaiga Stowers and Maeu Nanai Levi. Siaosi Leuo claimed the Sportsman of the Year Award. The President of the Samoa Hockey Association, Fa’amausili Taiva Ah Young, won the Sports Administrator of the Year award while the Sports Team of the Year award went to the Samoa Mixed Touch Rugby team.
The Athlete with a Disability of the Year was awarded to Paralympic, Milo Tolefoa.
Prime Minister Tuilaepa congratulated all the award winners.
But weightlifting’s was not confined to the present athletes. Former champion weightlifter, administrator and coach, Seiuli Paul Wallwork was also honoured as one of two inductees into S.A.S.N.O.C’s Hall of Fame.
He was joined by another hardworking administrator and former athlete Dawn Rasmussen.
There was a touch of sadness though during night when the Samoa sporting fraternity paused to remember and acknowledge the contribution by former President of S.A.S.N.O.C, Nu’u Tapasu Leung Wai. A moment of silence was observed in his honour.