Olympian fought through pain

By Deidre Fanene ,

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STRONG GIRL: Mary Opeloge competed with an injury and she still managed an 11th place finish.

STRONG GIRL: Mary Opeloge competed with an injury and she still managed an 11th place finish.

Olympic weightlifter, Mary Opeloge, will be out of competition for at least six months as a result of a knee operation she is having in New Zealand.

She had carried the injury into the competition two weeks ago, which saw her finish 11th in the division.

President and the Head Coach of the Samoa Weightlifting Federation, Tuaopepe Jerry Wallwork, said Opeloge sustained the injury during the build up to Rio. 

 “At the moment she’s in New Zealand and she’s going to undergo an operation and then will be in rehab for six months,” he said.

“She was hurt while we were here in Samoa but she was under treatment and  I thought she was recovering,  but then when we arrived in Rio we had to go heavy one more time as part of our preparations.

 “It was there that her knee was affected again because of that one training there. We took her to a specialist in Rio and were told that her knee meniscus is damaged and his advise was not to let her lift at the Olympics because it’s going to be affected even more.

“[But] I told her that she had to lift to get herself a total and because we have come so far and all that way for her not to lift.

“She would have been in good form like her performance at the Commonwealth, she would have been right up there in the top five or even top four.”

Asked why they didn’t choose someone else when they found out that Opeloge was injured, Tuaopepe said they couldn’t change their nomination.

“As soon as the athletes make the nomination, we cannot change it even if these sort of things happen, and that is the problem,” he said.

“So it was either she stay and not go to the Olympics or still go.  We thought we had a chance because we saw that she was okay, but it was the last training we did there that got her knee affected again.

“She underwent M.R.I. scans there and the specialist said her knee was really bad and they even said that it’s amazing how she was able to lift at the Oceania Championship and still train.

“On the day she went and lifted,  she managed to come 11th, I thought we were lucky. I really thought she was going to bomb out but she’s a strong girl and so she did the best she could.”

Tuaopepe said Opeloge’s operation will prolong her career.

“I was told that the sooner she undergoes the operation, the better the chance for her to recover again and  be back to normal by January,” he said.

“That’s why she’s undergoing treatment in New Zealand, so she will be back for the Commonwealth Championship in 2018.   We still have hope that we will win a gold medal in 2018 but she’s taking a break now from lifting and even Nevo is still in New Zealand as well to spend time with his family.”

The Coach said everything went well at the Olympics despite their disappointment with Opeloge.

 “That was the only disappointment, is that we had a bit of injury that got aggravated there and it’s just one of those things,” he said.

“Mary would have been close to getting a medal but we can’t say anything now because it’s done but if she was to get her total that she had before she would have been on the top.

“[And] we never know as well because there have been positive results of drug use at this Olympics, the gold medallists and one difficult thing was that we couldn’t change the nomination.

“As soon as they have been nominated then its closed and we couldn’t do anything so we were hoping that her injury will come right. It’s one of those things that happen and we move on.”

As for Nevo Tuaopepe, he is very proud of his performance. “Nevo’s performance was outstanding because to me this is the first time that Weightlifting Samoa has a male to make the top eight in the world and so to me that’s a big achievement,” he said.

“We have always been ranked outside and we would be lucky to make the top 20 or even the top 30 especially the men’s category.

“He could have gone higher if he had made his other lifts. He would’ve been higher so that’s an achievement in itself.”

Tuaopepe also took the time to apologise to the country for the outcome of the Olympics.

“I apologise to our people if our performance in Rio didn’t meet with your expectations,” he said.

“We went and we did the best we could and unfortunately things happen and so we would like to take this time to say,

“Faafetai Samoa mo lau tapuaiga, ae fa’amalulu atu i se taumafaiga a au tama fanau ae toe oso foi le la. We will try again in the next four years.”

© Samoa Observer 2016

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