Four Samoans headed to weightlifting world championships
Samoa will send four lifters to this year's International Weightlifting Federation Senior World Championships in Thailand next month.
Vaipava Nevo Ioane, Iuniarra Sipaia, Don Opeloge and Feagaiga Stowers will leave Samoa on the 13th of September for the competition, which will take place in Pattaya from the 16th to the 29th.
Team coach Tuaopepe Jerry Wallwork said their priority at the event will be qualifying for the 2020 Olympics, after which they can look to push for medals:
“We can’t really go all out in case something happens and you bomb out.
“We’ve really gotta play it safe first, and secure some good solid lifts, and maybe on the last attempt if I see the opportunity is there we go all out."
Tuaopepe noted that with the quality of lifters Samoa is taking anything can happen:
“We went to the Junior Worlds not expecting to win that and came out even winning golds."
Opeloge and Stowers were both crowned Junior World champions in their categories back in May.
“Feagaiga is highly ranked, especially in the snatch," Tuaopepe said.
“If she snatches what she’s doing now in training she’s right up there for a medal."
Opeloge came 22nd at the 2018 World Championships, and has since added 20 kgs to his personal best total.
Tuaopepe said he has really become a man as a lifter over the last eight months or so:
“Doing those sorts of weights, I didn’t expect it this soon from him."
He said if Opeloge can keep improving at this rate he will be in Olympic medal contention.
The Samoa Weightlifting Team would love to take more athletes to Thailand, however simply don't have the money to do so.
Tuaopepe said they should have more lifters going:
“Realistically, we can qualify four, five, maybe even more [for the Olympics] if we had the funds to take more.
“We’re very grateful for the funds we’ve been getting lately, but I still think there’s nothing stopping Samoa Weightlifting going beyond if we keep going to international tournaments."
He said they are on the right path, and know what it takes to get to the top.
“All that’s needed is exposure, keep getting exposure at the highest international level and these young kids will produce gold medals at any world tournament.
“The more they compete the more confident they become, and the better they perform on stage."
Stowers is ranked eighth in the world in her +87 kg women category, and seventh in the Olympic qualifying standings, while Opeloge is ranked 17th in his 89 kg men category, and sixth in the Olympic qualifying standings.
“They’re gonna improve on that ranking, make no mistake, they’re gonna keep moving up," Tuaopepe said.
Iuniarra Sipaia is ranked 20th in the +87 kg women category and 12th in Olympic qualifying, while Vaipava Nevo Ioane is 31st in his 67 kg men category and 33rd in Olympic qualifying.
The top eight lifters in each category make the Olympics, as well as the next best lifter from each continent.
Tuaopepe said a big thank you goes to naming sponsor Samoa Water Authority and the Samoan government for making both the Worlds trip and their success possible.
“And also all the little sponsors that have assisted right throughout the year."