How about $2.5 million for weightlifting?

A story titled “Govt. assistance to S.R.U. totals $2.5 million” published in the Sunday Samoan last week made for some very interesting reading. Printed with a nice photo of the Chairman of the Union, Tuilaepa Dr. Sa’ilele Malielegaoi, it was pretty hard to miss.

Come to think of it, that amount of money for one sport in Samoa, it’s quite impressive. A quick read through the story reveals that according to the public accounts for the financial years 2015 to 2018, the Government had provided $2.5 million to the Union during the past four years.

That’s an average of more than $600,000 a year. Not bad. Not bad at all for Samoan standards.

In the report, the S.R.U. Chairman is quoted as saying it has been quite tough at the Union and that the financial assistance was critical.

The report also pointed out that “the Union’s immediate debts have decreased from $685,000 to $480,000 and the Union is looking at closing off all long outstanding debts by 2018". Great stuff.

That was last year. Whether that has been done, we don’t know.

Now don’t get us wrong, every sport deserves financial assistance from the public coffers now and then. That’s because as taxpayers, any Samoan taking part in any sport is entitled to that help. Rugby, given its popularity and the number of people playing it in Samoa, certainly deserves its fair share.

Let’s not forget that rugby is still considered our national sport. And if we are honest, given the demands and the cost of keeping rugby alive, the sport probably deserves a lot more money.

But that should come with stringent conditions. It should be weighed against the success or failure of the sport. In other words, the equation is quite simple; the more they win, the more money they get. 

The principle should equally apply when they don’t win.

We all know the story of Samoan rugby. The truth is that for the past four years, successes at all levels has been few and far. Indeed, it has been a long drought in terms of successes - especially at the Sevens and 15s level.  

Consider the issue of Government funding then from the lenses of other sports, especially the ones constantly succeeding and bringing home the bacon for Samoa so to speak.

Weightlifting immediately comes to mind. They have been dominating international competitions year after year. They rank among the best in the Commonwealth, Oceania, World Champs, Pacific Games and so forth. 

Heck they have even created history by winning Samoa’s first and only Olympic Games medal.

And they continue to amaze us all.

Just last weekend at the Arafura Games in Darwin, Australia, the Samoa Weightlifting team completely dominated that competition, bringing home at least four gold medals and several silver and bronze medals.

Tuaopepe Jerry Wallwork and his team are literally worth their weight in gold.

We acknowledge that Weightlifting from time to time gets assistance from the Government. But imagine if that $2.5 million was given to Tuaopepe and the Samoa Weightlifting Federation to unearth Samoa’s true weightlifting potential that’s out there.

How many other Ele Opeloges could have been found by now? How many other gold medal winners could have been trained and allowed to compete at the international level so that Samoa becomes unstoppable at that level?

Don’t get us wrong. We all love our rugby, who doesn’t?

But we believe the allocation of Government funding for sports should be fair and based on performance and results. Once that formula applies, weightlifting should be top of the list. No ifs no buts.

The weightlifting fraternity has continued to provide amazing results despite the limited funding available. Samoa is well aware of the fact Tuaopepe funds most things out of his own pocket.

The truth is that many of these weightlifters come from poor families in Samoa. It means the pressure is always on Tuaopepe to clothe, feed and provide transport for his athletes on a daily basis.

So here’s another reminder to the Government and the people who pull the purse strings in this country:  When we talk about results and performances, there is absolutely no doubt that our national sport should be weightlifting. 

They certainly deserve $2.5 million if not more for their heroics. What do you think?

Have a wonderful weekend Samoa, God bless!

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