Well done, Ele Opeloge!

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Mata'afa Keni Lesa

Good things come to those who wait patiently. 

For Ele Opeloge, the wait for her moment of truth and glory has taken eight long years. 

As if that is not long enough, she will have to endure another wait as her Olympic silver medal from the 2008 Beijing Olympics in China is being arranged.

But that’s not the end of her anxiety. 

Then there is the dilemma of where and how she would be presented with her medal. Required to be in New Zealand as her residency papers are being processed, the athlete is torn, as she wants to be in Samoa for the special occasion.

Which is understandable. There is no doubt that everyone would want the presentation to be done in Samoa and rightly so. 

What Ele has achieved is arguably one of Samoa’s greatest success stories. 

Apart from the fact it is Samoa’s first Olympic medal, in doing so Ele has also become the first female from the Oceania region to win one.

The best part about Ele’s success is that this is a story made in Samoa for Samoa. Ele was discovered on these shores, developed her talent locally and when she travelled to the Olympic Games in 2008, she had done all her training in Samoa. 

So it comes as no surprise that she immediately dedicated her success to Samoa and in particular to her coach, Tuaopepe Jerry Wallwork.

Speaking for the first time since her medal was confirmed, Ele attributed her success to the hardworking and dedicated Tuaopepe.

“To my Coach and my mentor Tuaopepe Asiata Wallwork, words cannot explain how thankful I am for all that you have done for me,” Ele said.

“You have been the one person who has and have always been there for me. I know that if it wasn’t for you pushing me all the time to train hard, I wouldn’t be in this position.

“Out of all the people, you were and have always been here for me not only through training but even for my family.

“I will forever be grateful that I have a coach who pushes me even to my limit so I can become a better person. This medal I dedicate to you Tuaopepe and the whole of Samoa.”

What a beautiful tribute from a humble champion to a man who has been there from the start. The story of weightlifting in Samoa, and the role of the Opeloge family is well known. You cannot talk about weightlifters and not mention this particular family. Apart from Ele, her brothers and sisters have been representing Samoa for years bringing so much joy and pride to the nation.

Today, Ele has delivered the best outcome Samoan sports could ever have hoped for. During Christmas, her father Po’alaga Opeloge Tovia said they couldn’t have asked for a better present.

 “We are so proud not only us but our children too because one of our own has put Samoa’s name on the map. This has taken a long time but we thank God that it’s finally out and so we are very happy,” he said.

Congratulations have come from afar including Weightlifting guru Paul Coffa, the General Secretary of the Oceania Weightlifting Federation. 

Coffa said the moment is a proud one not just for Ele and her family but also Samoa and the Pacific.

“She has now become the first female in the sport of weightlifting from the Oceania region to win a medal at the Olympic Games,” Coffa said. “Congratulations Ele and congratulations to Samoa Weightlifting Federation, the Samoa N.O.C and the people of Samoa. Great Christmas News.”

For the President of the Samoa Weightlifting Federation and Ele’s coach, Tuaopepe, this Festive season could not be better.

“The Samoa Weightlifting Federation together with the Oceania Weightlifting Federation and O.N.O.C are pushing for the medal to be sent at the earliest,” he said. “This is history for Samoa and the weightlifting family. I sincerely hope that it will be given the recognition it deserves.”

We couldn’t agree more.

Speaking of recognitions, we believe this is truly a significant moment worth celebrating. 

If the government gave $230,000 to help fund a world championship fight, Ele deserves at least $100,000 for her efforts at the Olympics.

And it would be nice if she is honoured with a parade and a national holiday for everyone so we can truly celebrate with this humble athlete. 

What do you think? 

Congratulations to Ele, her coach Tuaopepe and the weightlifting family. 

In the meantime, enjoy the last day of 2016 Samoa, God bless!

© Samoa Observer 2016

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