Samoa best for weightlifters: Coffa

By Gutu Faasau 07 October 2023, 6:10PM

Paul Coffa, a name synonymous with weightlifting in the Pacific Islands and IWF Hall of Fame inductee, has credited Samoa's weightlifting hub for the country's medal success.

The hub was the host of the Oceania Weightlifting Championship last week which concluded on Saturday and saw multiple national and Oceania records being broken. 

As the first person ever to be inducted into the IWF Hall of Fame for outstanding achievement in the field of coaching, Mr. Coffa has been involved with the sport for over 50 years as a weightlifter, coach and administration. Currently, he is also the general secretary of both the Oceania Weightlifting Federation and the Commonwealth Weightlifting Federation.

In a partnership with Samoa's Tuaopepe Jerry Wallwork, they were able to successfully run the event for both the elite and young weightlifting athletes and Mr. Coffa remains convinced about the suitability of Samoa's hub.

“We’ve got to have more training camps here," said Mr. Coffa. "You know, I’ve been around for 59 years coaching all over the world and the atmosphere we had here during the training camp was incredible, just world class and we are going to have it again."

Tuaopepe said ultimately that was the objective of the training camp, to build that competitive spirit, and they are keen to replicate it in future events.

“The atmosphere was indeed very electric and it’s because of our weightlifters. When they come here they can learn from one another and become better," he said. “This is also good for our lifters because once our older lifters retire, we already have our younger lifters ready to rise up and take their place.”

Mr. Coffa was also impressed with the host country’s team for introducing such a competitive environment for the visiting teams and said that it was the best place for weightlifters to be.

“Jerry asked me to say a few words to the Samoan team and I’ve coached Olympic gold medalists, Oceania, Australia and I’ve never seen a team so close together before and that’s what makes them successful,” he said. “The youth and junior that Samoa has are far above the rest.

"Australia has got some very good junior lifters and so has New Zealand. At the youth level, Samoa is dominating it, which means that the future looks very bright. Overall I am very happy with the juniors from Australia, New Zealand and from around the Pacific. 

"But the youth section, Samoa is dominating it, which means there is a great future ahead for Samoa and that you are not just relying on Don Opeloge, Sanele Mao or John Tafi. You already have a backup.” 

He added that in the Pacific, weightlifting was next to rugby as the number one sport. He said that rugby is the sport of the Pacific but when it comes to the Commonwealth or world events, it was almost impossible to beat weightlifting in terms of medal count.

“I have no doubt that the Pacific athletes at the Olympic Games in Paris will have great representation,” added Mr. Coffa.

“For the Commonwealth Games, I predict that Samoa will win six Commonwealth medals and I can tell you their names Don Opeloge, Sanele Mao, John Tafi, Iuniara Sipaia, and now mark my words, Avatu Opeloge and she is going to be another superstar from the Opeloge family."

By Gutu Faasau 07 October 2023, 6:10PM
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