Wrestlers keeping eyes on the prize
The coronavirus may have severely limited international wrestling competition but the sport's head in Samoa, Tuaopepe Asiata Jerry Wallwork, has revealed the Samoa Wrestling Association is already preparing in earnest for major international contests.
Tuaopepe said Samoa's stable of wrestling talent had their eyes firmly fixed on the upcoming Olympic and Commonwealth Games as well as regional competitions in the lead-up to the major events.
"We are hoping borders will open and [that we can] have the Oceania championships in American Samoa," he said.
"We are also trying to find a spot to qualify one athlete for the Tokyo 2021 Olympic games.”
Tuaopepe said the Association are also making preparations for the Commonwealth Games next year.
Apia-based wrestling coach, Gaku Akazawa, is also waiting on the approval his Samoan citizenship application in anticipation of the sport's international return and his chance to fly the Samoan flag.
Tuaopepe said that approval would give Akazawa a chance to represent Samoa in next year’s Commonwealth Games.
“Gaku is also awaiting citizenship to enable him to compete for Samoa next year and with his experience and level of ranking he has a great chance to win medals at the Commonwealth Games," he said.
After a holiday break the country's wrestling team started training for the new year this week, Tuaopepe said.
"They started training on Monday and a few new students have taken an interest. This is very good for the sport," he said.
Akazawa told this newspaper that he welcomed two new students to his team on Monday and he’s very happy to have them on board.
"Two new students came on Monday. I am very happy that they joined our wrestling team," he said. "I don't know if they will come to training every day because they have jobs and school," he said.
“But I hope they'll come to training when they have time, I would be happy to have them.
“In yesterday's training, one of the two new students came, but one did not. Also, a new student came to training this morning.”
The Samoa Wrestling Association President emphasised the sport's many benefits for sportsmen and women alike in building discipline, fitness, physical toughness, speed and strength.
He noted that wrestling played a key role in the success of the 2005–2010 Manu Samoa Sevens teams.
"It's one of the toughest sports in the world today and the Olympics,” Tuaopepe said.
“Wrestling has been the best sport to assist other sports.
“In 2005–2010 wrestling helped train the Sevens national team which also proved to be the best team in history.”
Tuaopepe said that the famously successful Manu Samoa which went all the way to win the World Series were engaged in both wrestling and weightlifting and that both were critical to their success.
'It's a fact: I know I was there doing the programme and if the Sevens want to get up again they need to go through these sports to give them toughness, strength and physical balance for a one-on-one face-off with other players," he said.
“Wrestling gives you all these.”
Akazawa confirmed the Wrestling Association's training schedule for the week and the age group that his wrestlers are in.
"There are about 12 kids (5-12 years old) and about 10 people over 13 years old. Kids' classes (5-12 years old) are from 4pm to 5pm on Fridays,” he said.
“Senior and Junior classes (13+) are Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday at 5:30pm and Monday to Saturday at 5am.”