Minister says govt. will revisit awards policy

Confusion by the Cabinet over the different levels of sports achievement at Commonwealth Games and Olympic Games may be the reason behind their policy that only Gold medals count.  

In an interview on Radio New Zealand International, the Minister of Education, Sports and Culture, Loau Keneti Sio when Cabinet formulated the policy “at that particular time, they didn’t have in mind the difference between the [Olympic and Commonwealth] Games.”

However Samoa Weightlifting Federation president and coach, Tuaopepe Jerry Wallwork explained in a recent interview that there is a huge difference between the two Games.

“At Commonwealth level, there would be around 40 countries competing in weightlifting while at Olympic level, there are around twice that number, close to 90, plus you need to qualify.” 

The Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi has repeatedly said, the Government’s policy was to only offer awards for gold medal winners.

But Loau said changes were possible.

He did not specify when that change would come.

He said that the Samoa Government will review its policy on monetary rewards for Olympic medalists following public pressure to recognise Ele Opeloge’s historic achievement of winning a Silver medal.

 The weightlifter won Samoa’s first Olympic medal at the 2008 Beijing Games, after being upgraded to silver when two competitors were disqualified for drugs.

In his explanation, Loau added “We are looking at putting a paper again and revisit(ing) that policy, whether we can put in place the ranking of the Games, so that we can have an idea which particular Games and which medal that we’re supposed to be rewarding to the athletes. If we can revisit that again, that would be a good solution to come out with (of) that situation.”

“I am looking forward at putting up a paper again. I am looking to that hopefully that will be in the near future.”

In reply to a question about the overwhelming support for Ele from the public, Loau said, “With the situation, in particular with Ele, yes it has been noticed and I can see that people are wanting and hopefully that they can help her which, as I said, I have nothing to go against with.

I have also pledged as well but no, the government doesn’t have anything to do with it in a way of their fundraising to have some funds for Ele.”

In his capacity as the Minister for Sport, on behalf of the country, Loau was asked what it means to have an Olympic medalist in Samoa for future generations who might look up to her and do look up to her already.

“I guess this is one of the first times that we are receiving a medal, especially at the Olympic Games and yeah it’s a great achievement that we’ve got. 

“I’m so thrilled and proud of what Ele has done for our country, in a way of getting this medal, and hopefully I can see that the government, for sure, will be playing a part in the ceremony in the way of receiving the medal.”

Concluding the interview, Vinnie Wylie said, “I guess it’s that achievement which is why there’s been such a strong groundswell of support for people wanting to see her recognised further.”


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