It’s a no-brainer, medal winners deserve rewards
Samoa’s performance at the Commonwealth Games clearly proves that for a small nation of just over 200,000 people, we certainly punch well above our weight. It is something to be proud of.
While we have had better campaigns at the Commonwealth Games level in terms of the gold medal count, the effort by Team Samoa this time around, spearheaded by a boisterous weightlifting team deserves to be commended.
Let us look at some numbers to provide some perspective. Of 72 countries in the Commonwealth, Samoa was ranked 19th on the medal tally. In the Pacific, we ranked ahead of the region’s other sporting powerhouses such as Fiji (29th) and Papua New Guinea (ranked 35). That is impressive.
The result is especially remarkable after these athletes and their coaching teams had to overcome the challenges posed by COVID-19 restrictions and lockdowns, which would have upset their preparations.
We cannot stop thinking about how things could have been different had Tuaopepe Jerry Wallwork and his weightlifting team been allowed to compete at the Olympics prior to Birmingham. How much stronger would the weightlifting team had entered the Commonwealth Games with if they were not prevented from participating?
Still, when it counted at Birmingham, the weightlifters and a boxer stood up and represented Samoa with such pride and passion. So take a bow Don Opeloge (gold), Feagaiga Stowers (silver), Jack Opeloge (silver), Vaipava Nevo Ioane (silver) and boxer, Ato Plodzicki-Faoagali (silver). You have all done Samoa proud.
Winning a medal in any competition is not something one should take for granted but doing so at the Commonwealth Games is quite an achievement that deserves to be recognised and applauded.
Let’s not forget all the other athletes who made up Team Samoa of course, including our Manu Samoa Sevens team who finished two places from a medal in the Rugby Sevens. They would no doubt be kicking themselves for losing to Australia in such a close match but such is life, you win some and lose some.
We had some very good results in swimming and other sports.
Let’s just hope that they have all taken on some valuable lessons to ensure they do better next time. Indeed, what’s important is that all these athletes have returned home with new experience and motivation to do better and be better. To become the best, one must beat the best. These athletes need regular exposure against the best in the world to improve. We shouldn’t kid ourselves by expecting golden results when athletes only compete locally, things must change.
The weightlifters have constantly done it for Samoa. Don Opeloge is used to winning gold because he is regularly exposed to that level of competition, which brings out the best in him. Jack, Vaipava and Feagaiga were very unlucky but they could have easily returned with gold medals, they came excruciatingly close.
Credit has to be given to Tuaopepe’s persistence with his training regime. Even in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown, they remained focused and trained constantly. They had also adapted by competing virtually, wherever possible. The results we saw at the Commonwealth Games speak for themselves.
Our boxer Ato Plodzicki-Faoagali deserved a gold medal, he gave it his all and although he came up just short, we should be mighty proud of him. Faoagali is a reminder of Samoan boxing’s once proud history when they dominated.
We’d like to believe that he could inspire a new generation of boxers.
But this is going to take a lot of work. We know that success these days takes a lot more than just pure talent and dedication. It requires finances, the right support systems and for athletes to be constantly exposed to top level of competition to sharpen their skills.
Which brings us to the question of financial rewards for the athletes. From what we have been told, the Government has yet to make a final decision on whether the medalists will be awarded some money.
The issue is a no-brainer. Just as it was a no-brainer when the Manu Samoa Sevens won the world title and when Ele Opeloge created history when she won Samoa’s first Olympic medal. The government at the time did not lift a finger to reward them.
This time around, we hope things will change under a new administration. We believe it is only fair that a form of reward, whether its money or otherwise, is offered for the hard work these athletes put in. Many of them come from ordinary families who have had to sacrifice so much more to represent and make Samoa proud.
They deserve recognition, something is better than nothing. There are thousands of dollars being wasted by the public service on unnecessary vehicles, trips and other expenses. Imagine if those monies were saved and given to these athletes to develop their talents, and incentivize them to win more medals?
What do you think? Have a wonderful weekend Samoa, God bless!
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