Male weightlifters at a medal ceremony

Samoa’s Opeloge sets new Oceania record at weightlifting

croppedIMG 9816 | June 16, 2024
New Zealand’s Hayley Whiting won a silver medal on a day when Samoa dominated the men’s events. Photos: Peter Kofana and Kevin Ha’oto, Pacific Games News Service

Don Opeloge of Samoa set a new Oceania and Pacific Games record in the men’s 102kg at the Sol2023 Pacific Games on Thursday at Maranatha Hall, on a day which he dominated alongside teammate Maeu Nanai Livi in front of their vocal Samoa teammates.

Nanai Livi opened proceedings, winning three gold medals in the men’s 90kg category lifting 155kg for snatch and 185kg for clean and jerk with a total lift of 340kg.

Behind him in the men’s 90kg, Ethan Elwell of Guam took silver with a total lift of 305kg while Steven Tehihira of Tahiti took Bronze with a total lift of 298kg.

Opeloge carried on his fine form from Wednesday to win gold in the men’s 102kg, lifting 165kg for snatch and 214kg for clean and jerk with a total lift of 379kg, setting a new Pacific Games and Oceania record.

Speaking after his triumph the Samoan lifter said that he is looking forward to competing at the Paris 2024 Olympic Games.

“Thank God for the strength for today and I feel so excited about my result. This is just the beginning of my preparation for the Olympics and I am looking forward to more preparation and focus on what to improve more,” Opeloge told the Pacific Games News Service, admitting that he hopes to reach the podium in Paris too.

Timothy Vakuruivalu from Fiji came a distant second to Opeloge to claim silver with a total lift of 252kg, and the bronze went to Tahiri Metua of Tahiti with a total lift of 251kg.

The women’s 81kg saw Fiji-born Australian Commonwealth Games champion Eileen Cikamatana prove her dominance with a hat-trick of gold in front of many weightlifting fans who came to see her.

“It’s a different village and different country, but it’s an effort to control the sign of what you are trying to overcome, every challenge, and achieve your goals,” she said, adding that her next target is Paris 2024.

The silver in the women’s 81kg category belonged to New Zealand’s Hayley Whiting with a total lift of 197kg, while Fiji’s Makare Tavanavanua settled for bronze.

The 23-year-old who represented New Zealand at youth competitions admitted her medal was unexpected.

“Although I have mostly represented at youth level it wasn’t intimidating at all; I am just here to have fun and I ended up coming away with the bronze medal, which is really good,” she told the Pacific Games News Service.

The day’s final result saw New Zealand’s Renee Baarspul claim all three golds in the women’s 87kg weight division, with 95kg in the snatch, 112kg in the clean and jerk and a total lift of 207kg.

Friday will be the last day of weightlifting with events from 8:30am to 3pm. Tickets are $30.

By Shoreyann Ragoso, Melinder Alu and Jacklyn Kutia, Pacific Games News Service

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