The first female in the Pacific to win a medal at the Olympic Games, Ele Opeloge, has dedicated her success to Samoa – and to her coach, Tuaopepe Asiata Jerry Wallwork.
Speaking to the Samoa Observer in her first media interview since the final decision was announced last week, Ele said words couldn’t explain how happy she is.
“It’s been a long time coming,” she said. “It has been eight years but I’m grateful it is finally here. So first and foremost I want to thank God for His blessings. I did my best; I trusted him and he has come through. I always knew the truth will prevail.
“God always reveals the truth and especially when it comes to His children and those who have been working hard for something like this.”
A few days since the decision came through, Ele said the idea of being Samoa’s first Olympic medallist is slowly sinking in.
“I don’t mean to brag about it but I truly believe I deserve this because I had worked so hard for it,” she said.
“So I feel very humbled and all I can do is give thanks to God and to those who have helped me to get to where I am right now.”
No other person has helped her more than her coach, Tuaopepe, who is also the President of the Samoa Weightlifting Federation.
“To my Coach and my mentor Tuaopepe Asiata Wallwork, words cannot explain how thankful I am for all that you have done for me,” she said.
“You have been the one person who has and have always been there for me. I know that if it wasn’t for you pushing me all the time to train hard, I wouldn’t be in this position.
“Out of all the people, you were and have always been here for me not only through training but even for my family.
“I will forever be grateful that I have a coach who pushes me even to my limits so I can become a better person. This medal I dedicate to you Tuaopepe and the whole of Samoa.”
Asked if she has a preference about where she would receive her medal, Ele said that decision is out of her hands.
“With the medal presentation I am depending on my Coach because he is the one who is working with the people here in New Zealand to make sure I am there for the medal presentation,” she said.
“I want to come to Samoa because I know that is my home country. That’s where all this started.
“However, circumstances are getting in the way and that is what Tuaopepe and the New Zealand Sports Committee are working on.
“But hopefully God will open up ways to allow me to come to Samoa.”
Tuaopepe confirmed they are working on bring Ele to Samoa.
“It’s not easy as she is required to stay in New Zealand until her permanent residency has been approved which may be February this year.
“This is what I have been told by the NZ Weightlifting Federation people who are assisting Ele with her application process.
“However, I should have a definite answer by next week. We now await the medal.
“The Samoa Weightlifting Federation together with the Oceania Weightlifting Federation and ONOC are pushing for the medal to be sent at the earliest. “This is history for Samoa and the weightlifting family and I sincerely hope that it will be given the recognition it deserves.”
The silver medallist went on to say that whatever decision the people who are supporting her comes up with she will accept.
“If God wants me to come to Samoa for this then I’m sure He will allow me to come,” she said. “But as of now I’ll just have to wait and see.”
She also acknowledges those who supported her along the way.
“First I want to say thank you to Samoa for the tapuaiga, the prayers and the encouragement,” she said.
“I know you all believed in me and prayed for me throughout the times that I have represented our country in the Olympics.
“My family, my parents, brothers and sisters for everything I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for your support.
“I know you are all so proud of me so let us stand together as a family and give thanks to our Heavenly Father for all that He has blessed us with.”
Ele had originally placed fourth in Beijing during the 2008 Olympics.
However after the reanalysis of the drug testing and subsequent adverse analytical findings of the original silver medallist from Kazakhstan and bronze medallist from the Ukraine and their subsequent disqualification, Ele is now the rightful silver medallist.