Opeloge prepares for his first-ever Olympics
The 21-year-old Samoan weightlifting powerhouse Don Opeloge has qualified for the 2021 Tokyo Olympics 2021 and acknowledged the hurdles he overcame to reach the pinnacle of sport.
Samoa Weightlifting President Tuaopepe Asiata Jerry Wallwork confirmed his qualification when contacted by the Samoa Observer on Tuesday.
Opeloge said he was humbled by the news of his qualification, and owes it to God for overcoming the various challenges over the last four years, in order to make his first appearance at the Olympic level.
"This is my first time to have the chance to be a part of an Olympic. I give thanks to the Lord for the opportunity to compete in the Olympics, even though a date has not yet been confirmed,” the 2019 XVI Pacific Games gold medallist told this newspaper. “But all praise and gratitude go back to our heavenly father for this golden opportunity given to me to represent our country and families who are supporting me.”
"The road to securing a place in the Olympics is very tough. You have to go through six competitions in order to compete in the Olympics and in those six competitions, you have to be on the top rank.”
Looking back at his journey as a weightlifter over the last four years, he said his only fear was getting injured before a competition, as an injury can force an athlete to rest and make it difficult to get back on the field.
"There are many challenges as I prepare for the Olympics, and our coach has been encouraging us to work hard on our training because the preparations for the Olympics aren't easy.
“As you know, this is the only sport that needs a lot of preparation, especially for these big events.
“Our coach has helped a lot in training us for these competitions and praying to God to give me strength.
“If I was injured for one week, I will still try and lift some light objects to maintain my lifting, and then it will take another whole week to recover from that week.”
Opeloge added that the recently concluded Oceania Weightlifting Federation Online League was also tough for him as he had injuries and body aches that he had to overcome.
"The training for the OWF Online league from the beginning was not easy, most of the time I have injuries and body aches which can be a problem.
“For instance, if I have a sore body, my strength will wear out and it'll be hard to keep up with the level of training that we're in now.
“When the time comes where I would train to get my old strength back to reach the level where everyone is at, it is going to be very difficult to be on that recovery road.”
Asked what his hopes when a date for the Olympics is set, he smiled and said: "I only have one reason for going to the Olympics and that is to earn a gold medal for Samoa.
“I rely on the Lord to give me strength because without Him I won't be able to make it."
Acknowledging the contributions of various people whose support ensured he reached the pinnacle of his performance, Opeloge praised his older sister and gold medalist, Ele Opeloge. "There are many people that I look up to but mostly my older sister Ele. I want to be like her and some of the alumni of this sport.
“I want to acknowledge my coach for encouraging me to train hard, my parents, siblings, our team, and SWA (Samoa Water Authority) who are always behind us and supporting us wherever and whenever.”