‘Best Christmas present ever’
Christmas presents mean different things to different people.
They come in different forms and sizes, varying in significance.
But what if your Christmas present is the stuff that’s capable of rewriting history? What if it’s news of a silver medal from the Olympic Games that has taken eight long years to wait for?
That was precisely the case for Opeloge family of Vaoala ā on Sunday when the nation paused to celebrate Christmas.
With Ele Opeloge’s silver medal from the Beijing Olympics now officially confirmed, to say that it was a joyous occasion for the family on Sunday is an understatement.
Although Ele is not in Samoa as she awaits her New Zealand visa there, her father Po’alaga Opeloge Tovia said they couldn’t have asked for a better present.
The father, Ele’s siblings including former male champion Oloali’i Niu Sila, gathered to give thanks.
“Well I guess there is no other feeling other than give thanks to God for all that he has done for my daughter,” said Po’alaga.
“We are so proud not only us but our children too because one of our own has put Samoa’s name on the map. This has taken a long time but we thank God that it’s finally out and so we are very happy.”
It has taken the Opeloges eight years of waiting.
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.
The President of the Samoa Weightlifting Federation and Ele’s coach, Tuaopepe Jerry Wallwork, is delighted.
“The Samoa Weightlifting Federation together with the Oceania Weightlifting Federation and O.N.O.C are pushing for the medal to be sent at the earliest,” he said. “This is history for Samoa and the weightlifting family. I sincerely hope that it will be given the recognition it deserves.”
Congratulations has come from afar including Weightlifting guru Paul Coffa, the General Secretary of the Oceania Weightlifting Federation.
Coffa said the moment is a proud one not just for Ele and her family but also Samoa and the Pacific.
“She has now become the first female in the sport of weightlifting from the Oceania region to win a medal at the Olympic Games,” Coffa said. “Congratulations Ele and congratulations to Samoa Weightlifting Federation, the Samoa N.O.C and the people of Samoa. Great Christmas News.”
For Ele’s proud father, he cannot wait for the medal to be presented.
“Hopefully the presentation will be sometime soon now that it has been official,” he said.
“This matter has been dragged on for so long now so I think for the sake of my daughter’s name the IWF should do the presentation soon. That’s all we want. “We are very happy for Ele and I think as Ele’s father she deserves this because she has been working very hard for it.”
The proud father also hopes S.A.S.N.O.C and the government would bring Ele to Samoa for the medal presentation.
“Our daughter doesn’t have money to fly over but I hope the government and the Sports Federation will be able to help out with her fare,” he said.
“As a parent, I want the medal to be presented here in Samoa not anywhere else, because this is where it all started. It doesn’t matter if Ele is not here I’m sure as her father she will do what we say and we say the medal will be presented here in Samoa where it all started.
“It doesn’t matter what other people say this is where the medal belongs and this is where it would be presented.
“She (Ele) has been preparing for this moment ever since the news came out and she told me that she would love to come back to have the medal be presented here.
“This is what Ele wants and our family agrees with it because before all of this she represented Samoa and it was through the weightlifting sport in Samoa that made her famous.” Oloali’i Niu Sila said he could hardly wait.
“As her older brother and the person who introduced her to weightlifting I am so proud of how far my sister has gone,” he said. “Not only she had put Samoa on the top but she has made her family very proud.”
Oloali’i went on to say that even though the time has gone but silver medal is still a silver medal.
“I know that the time has passed and maybe some people might not think it’s a big deal but this is the first time Samoa has a silver medal from the Olympics so it’s is still important,” he said.
“I guess what I’m trying to say is that I hope the government will be able to give Ele all the attention she deserves. “I also hope that they will help her financially because this is a huge matter and she deserves it all.
“I also hope that Ele will consider coming to Samoa to have the medal presented here because this is her country and this is where it all started.”