Twenty-five year old Iuniarra Sipaia of Vaoala has come a long way from when she turned up with a bunch of other lifters from Vaoala.
At the Asia Indoors Games at Ashgabat, despite an injury, Ms. Sipaia managed to bring home a bronze medal after competing in the +90kg category.
The Games had all the major lifters there which made her achievement even more meritorious.
In fact it was a ‘Who’s Who’ of the event with Jia Weipeng of China who was the Gold medalist, Aborneva Alexandra from Kazakhstani and then Ms. Sapaia from Samoa who managed to secure the Bronze.
President and Head Coach of Weightlifting, Tuaopepe Jerry Wallwork told the Samoa Observer he is very proud of Ms. Sipaia’s achievement.
“It was a tough tournament and there were people who are Gold medalists who competed at the tournament so for Iuni to have a medal at all, it was a great achievement,” he said.
“She has been with weightlifting for a while now and she’s at the peak of her weightlifting career right now.
“We are looking at her to step up for the Commonwealth games and if it wasn’t for the transgender guy that she is competing against from New Zealand, she would have a very good chance of winning a Gold medal.” Tuaopepe recalled the first time Ms. Sipaia entered the weightlifting sport.
“She was quiet but I could see the eagerness in her to become someone in the sport.
“She’s a very hardworking person. She comes in, puts all her effort into training and she is very honest. I guess that is why she is achieving a lot in the sport because of her honesty and hard work.
“She is the kind of person who came in the sport and just never left. She didn’t want to stop and I guess she saw a bright future for herself in the sport.”
The coach predicted that she will be the next Ele Opeloge.
“In the last few years, she’s been consistently winning titles in the Commonwealth and Oceania Games. She has come a long way in the time since Ele left. Previously she was in the shadow of Ele, but she’s stepped up,” he said.
“She could’ve won silver at this competition but she was carrying an arm injury from the Oceania Championships hence why she missed out in her last attempts that could’ve landed her a Silver.
“Overall she put on an excellent performance and she can win a Gold medal in the Pacific Games if she continues having a strong heart for the sport.”
On a personal level, Tuaopepe said Iuniarra is a quiet person, “She doesn’t talk much,” he said.
“She is well disciplined, trains hard, puts her heart into the sport and I think that’s why she is improving a lot. I have never had a problem with her ever since she entered the sport.”
“In recent times, she is starting to mature - to lead the girls and the team as she is one of the seniors.
“She is a great role model for the young lifters of the sport and she is proving that through her own outstanding achievements.”