Wrestler misses Olympics over S.A.S.N.O.C. error

By Deidre Tautua-Fanene ,

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Uta Junior during his preparation with Coach Guka Akazawa. (Photo Anina Kazaz)

Uta Junior during his preparation with Coach Guka Akazawa. (Photo Anina Kazaz)

The Samoa Association of Sports and National Olympic Committee has admitted their error led to wrestler Uta Junior Muaulu missing out on participating in next month’s Youth Olympic Games.

Samoa Association of Sports and National Olympic Committee (S.A.S.N.O.C) Chef de Mission Nynette Sass told the Samoa Observer in an interview yesterday that they accepted responsibility for the oversight and have apologised to the wrestler, his coach and family.

She said due to the inability of athletes in certain sports in Samoa to qualify on merit, they would normally rely on the International Olympic Committee (I.O.C.) giving National Olympic Committees (N.O.C.) universality places after a request is officially put through to the I.O.C. 

“For example Samoa has applied for the universality places in boxing specifically for the heavyweight, swimming, weightlifting and athletics so we give the I.O.C. a request.

“They will discuss and then they will then send us universality places that we need to look at and expect of our athletes because Samoa, usually we can never qualify on our own to go to the Olympics, whether it’s the main Olympics or the Youth Olympics and that is why universality places are there.

“And once the universality places are approved they will then tell the National Olympic Committee that these are their universality places have been approved,” she said.

But  the  approval of a universality placing does not mean automatic qualification for the athlete, with Ms. Sass indicating that the N.O.C. has to check the competitiveness of the athlete. 

In Uta Junior’s case she said they assumed the I.O.C. had offered another placing for Samoa in wrestling, when Samoa Weightlifting qualified on their own merits.

“Somehow we thought at the time an opportunity has been offered to Samoa in wrestling, and that is why we requested, if there is someone from wrestling who can go simply because we also knew wrestling is not active in Samoa at the time. Traditionally, these are the sports that we are very strong at because our people’s upper bodies are strong which includes wrestling, weightlifting and boxing.”

Ms. Sass said all was set for the young wrestler and his coach to participate in the Youth Olympic Games, until an email from the I.O.C. asked for the universal placing of Uta in order to participate. 

“We went through all the records and we realised we were confused with the universality places of the weightlifting so when we realised we made a mistake we called the family right away, as we always believe that if we make a mistake we step up and acknowledge it.

“So we called Uta and his coach his family and the Tuaopepe and the president of S.A.S.N.O.C. We explained to him and we apologise to Uta and the family for our wrong but we were keen to take him. So it’s not like canceled him and take someone else, no, that’s not what happened,” she added.

© Samoa Observer 2016

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