While many of us have followed the progress and success through the media of Ele Opeloge, Samoa’s most successful weightlifter, few of us are familiar with her family and background.
Iliā L Likou put some questions to Ele’s parents, Lusila Opeloge and Opeloge Tovia at Vaoala on Saturday to learn a little more about this Olympic star.
Samoa Observer - How many children are in your family?
Lusila Opeloge - Eight children. Ele is the fifth of eight children, three girls and five boys, their names, Losalia, Hitila, Junior, Niusila, Ele, Tovia, Mary and Petunu.
S.O. - What is Ele’s full name?
L.O. - Ele is also known as Tapu’ele’ele but we named her ‘Ele’ for short, so most people just call her Ele.
S.O. – Where is Ele now?
L.O. - She’s in Papatoetoe, Auckland New Zealand. She and her family moved there in 2014. She is married to Toa Vai from Falealili and Manunu and they have two children, 14 year old Opeloge and three year old Avatu.
S.O. - What was Ele’s like as a child and later, as an as an adult?
L.O. - She was a very helpful little girl, and she always spent her time after school at our plantation. She was hard working and preferred working on our plantation than in our house when she was young. Even today, she still works hard for her family and us, (parents) as well. She was not a talkative young girl, she always did her own feaus the way she liked to. She never complained and we hardly ever heard her talk back to us. Looking at her today, she deserves a successful future.
S.O. - Was she good at other sports as a child?
L.O. - As I’ve mentioned before, when she was young the only time she was not around home was when she went to school. But at home, she was always doing chores. I think weightlifting was the only sport she loved and was good at.
S.O. - What schools did she attend?
L.O. - She attended Leifiifi Intermediate School and then went on to Leifiifi College.
S.O. - Why do you think Ele was successful in weightlifting?
L.O. - She always did what she was told to do and always listened to us, her parents without complaint She’s a hardworking girl and she loves to pray
S.O. - Who helped her along the way to her amazing success?
L.O. - Our son Niusila Opeloge was the first one who introduced her to the sport of weightlifting. He came and asked Ele if she wanted to join, then she said yes and that’s what got her into the sport. Many other people have helped her to achieve her success - her coach Tuaopepe Paul Wallwork, her brothers and other sisters who always pushed her on and especially the people of Samoa who have supported and prayed for her success.
S.O. - Has she inspired others to take up weightlifting?
L.O. - Ele has influenced others especially her sisters. Ele’s biggest wish is to take our grandchildren to try to see if they have a future in weightlifting.
S.O. Why do you think weightlifting is a good sport for Samoan women?
L.O. - We all know that Samoan women have big hearts (tetelē fatu), we see that most in families because there you see a woman can do this, can do that, I mean everything. And they can do fatherly duties as well, so if our women are capable of everything, I’m sure they can do more in weightlifting as well.
How to contribute to the Samoa Observer - Ele’s Fund
Here is your chance to give something back to Samoa’s Olympic heroine. The Samoa Observer has set up a Fund for Ele Opeloge to honour her achievement of winning Samoa’s first Olympic medal, a silver medal, from the Olympic Games in Beijing, China in 2008.
• Take your donation to the Samoa Observer Apia office or the Samoa Observer Vaitele headquarters, record your name and details and get a receipt.
• Take your donation directly to the Bank of the South Pacific, Apia or Salelologa, record your name and details and get a receipt. (The account name and number will be publicized in the Tuesday 28 February, Samoa Observer)
• Ring us about your donation if you have an individual, group, class, school or business and you would like newspaper coverage, please.
Marj 7516766 or Salema 23078