Team Samoa did country proud in Saipan
It is good to see Samoa’s athletes basking in the glory of their medal-winning performances at the Pacific Mini Games in Saipan in the Northern Mariana Islands.
It has been a frustrating 2-plus years of international competition cancellations or postponements for the country’s athletes brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, with the broader implications being the changes in their training regimes, exercise choices, diet, sleep and even mental health.
However, for Team Samoa on assignment at the 2022 Pacific Mini Games, it was a slow start when they first arrived in Saipan last week for the start of the 9-day regional sporting competition that kicked off last Friday 17 June.
But they were quick out of the blocks midway through the games and by Wednesday this week shot into the top 10 of the overall medal tally. It was a far cry from last weekend when the team was sitting at the bottom of the medal tally table when the various track and field events started.
By Thursday this week Team Samoa had already bagged 15 medals which included 7 gold, 4 silver and 4 bronze. Unsurprisingly, Samoa’s weightlifting team continued to set the benchmark with their powerhouse performances, breaking Oceania records along the way.
Three gold medals were won in a well fought battle in the 81kg women’s category by golden girl Faustina Tupuola Niusila Opeloge. Faustina also made an Oceania youth record, winning golds in the snatch 90kg, clean & jerk 108kg for a total 198kg record for Oceania.
The 18-year-old Avatu Opeloge, won 3 bronze medals in the 76kg women’s category in the snatch, clean and jerk as well as bronze in the total division. Iuniarra Sipaia, who competed in the 87-plus kg won gold in the clean and jerk and took overall gold.
Lesila Fiapule managed to get gold for the 87-plus kg division in the snatch, silver in the clean and jerk, and rounded it off with an overall silver. And 16-year-old Tovio Ah Chong in the 81kg division set a new Oceania youth record with a 140kg clean and jerk.
Not forgetting 23-year-old Donny Masele Tuimaseve who managed to throw a 69 meter throw in javelin to win gold as well as 22-year-old Pesamino Iakopo winning silver in the 100m men’s finals, followed by 19-year-old Johnny Key who won the bronze medal.
A special mention should be made of Samoa’s weightlifting team – who persisted with their training regime over the last 2 years and participated in the various virtual weightlifting competitions organised by the regional federation – and did not throw in the towel, despite all the drama associated with their 11th hour withdrawal from the Tokyo Olympics. They backed themselves and the number of medals they won in Saipan confirmed their hunger for success.
Congratulations to the Samoa Weightlifting Federation President and Coach Tuaopepe Jerry Wallwork for laying the seeds of their success, their performance in the Northern Mariana Islands augurs well for Team Samoa’s aspirations at the 2022 Birmingham Commonwealth Games in the United Kingdom from 28 July 2022 to 8 August 2022.
A special mention as well of all the sponsors who’ve made Team Samoa’s trip to Saipan and their participation in the Pacific Mini Games possible.
As the recent host of the last 2019 Pacific Games and Samoa’s historic third placing on the medal tally after the regional sporting powerhouses Papua New Guinea (131 total with 40 gold) and New Caledonia (182 total with 75 gold) out of 24 competing nations and territories, we are impressed with the dedication and commitment that Team Samoa athletes, sporting administrators and officials have put into the 9-day event to continue to fly our flag high in the face of multiple challenges back home including COVID-19.
On the second last day of competition in Saipan on Friday, Samoa had dropped to 7th on the medal tally with 17 medals including 7 gold and 5 silver, behind New Caledonia and Guam.
We are not sure what the country’s final placing will be when competition ends on Saturday, but one thing we do know is that everyone in the Team gave it their best shot and made the country proud.
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