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Samoa Weightlifting positive about Olympic delay

The Olympics being delayed a year is good news for the Samoa Weightlifting Team, who coach Tuaopepe Jerry Wallwork thinks can contend for medals.

It was announced this week the 2020 Tokyo Games will be held from the 23rd of July to the 3rd of August in 2021 due to the ongoing global COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’s actually better for us, it gives us more time to prepare,” Tuaopepe said.

He watched developing star, Don Opeloge, make a 215 kilogram clean and jerk last week in one of the team’s final training camp sessions before they disbanded to follow social distancing restrictions under the Government’s state of emergency orders.

 “That’s another five kilos over the 210 he did in the Australian Open, and the bronze medal at the World Championships was 213 in the clean and jerk,” Tuaopepe said.

“So he’s actually touching the top now, and given another 15 months anything can happen, we might be competing for a gold medal, or a bronze medal or making the top five. It’s perfect for us now, and at the same time we can qualify more athletes.”

Super-heavyweight Lauititi Lui will have a chance to qualify for the Olympics thanks to the delay, having missed many of the qualifying tournaments in 2018 and 2019 through injury.

“And a few others that we weren’t looking at taking to the Olympics that have come along, young juniors, they also have a great chance now of making the team,” Tuaopepe said.

“Realistically we’re looking at a team of six weightlifters, which is the most ever.

“And we won’t just go to participate, almost the whole team will be placed in the top ten in the world at the Olympic Games.”

The International Weightlifting Federation are currently working with the International Olympic Committee to plan competitions in the lead-up to the Games, and how exactly qualification will work but athletes that had already booked their spots like Don Opeloge and Vaipava Nevo Ioane should be safe.

However even with a concrete date for the Tokyo Games finally locked in, everything still depends on the global public health situation with COVID-19 and how it develops.

“This mght drag on for another eight months, and then all the plans have gone down the drain again, but we can hope for the best that it passes us, or it calms down sooner or later,” Tuaopepe said.

“We have to wait it out, and like everybody else we’re praying for the country and of course the world. Looking at all the suffering that’s happening now in the world, you wouldn’t wish that on anybody.”

Samoa’s weightlifters are now either training by themselves, or just a couple at a time.

“They’re training at home, or somewhere else but not in training camp, just for the next four or six weeks depending on what’s going to happen,” Tuaopepe said.

“[If and] when there’s a total lockdown, we’re going to give them equipment to train at home.

“I think it’s all for the best, I think they should shut it down for a month, shut the whole country down just to be safe.”

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