Weightlifting: Siblings bring home gold for Samoa

By David Leggat

Ele Opeloge and her brother Niusila Opeloge won back-to-back golds in weightlifting for Samoa. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Ele Opeloge and her brother Niusila Opeloge won back-to-back golds in weightlifting for Samoa. Photo / Brett Phibbs

NEW DELHI - It was a case of the golden Opeloges at the weightlifting arena yesterday.

Brother and sister Niusila and Ele Opeloge won back-to-back gold medals, cheered on by other family members. There will have been celebrations in Auckland and in Vaoala, in Samoa. There are family in Auckland, although the pair still live on the Pacific island.

Ele Opeloge - at 25, five years younger than her brother - was fourth at the Beijing Olympics and an overwhelming favourite yesterday.

She did not disappoint, cranking out Games records in the snatch, clean and jerk and with her total 285kg, 30kg ahead of Nigerian Maryam Usman.

"There is pressure but I don't feel too much," she said. "When I go to lift I think, 'I'm strong.' My mind says, 'I think I can do it.' If my mind is strong then I'm good and my lift should be good."

Niusila Opeloge was favourite in the men's 105kg division and won well, although not without a scare.

Opeloge failed with his first two attempts at the snatch at 147kg before making it on the final attempt.

Had he missed he would have joined younger brother Tovia in dropping out of the competition. He eventually won with a total 338kg, four ahead of New Zealand silver medallist Stanislav Chalaev.

"I was really nervous," Opeloge said of his must-make final snatch attempt. "I never miss a lift. So I thank God he gave me the strength and focus to get my last lift."

Weightlifting is a family affair. Five Opeloges have been lifting at the Games - the others being brother Petunu and sister Mary - and yesterday's golds give Samoa three altogether after Faavae Faauliuli won the 94kg class at the weekend.

They are Samoa's first Games gold medallists and there is a hope that they can provide inspiration for future aspiring lifters in the island nation.

"It's good for Samoa and for other girls coming up," softly spoken Ele Opeloge, 25, said. "I want more girls to try weightlifting."

As the highest-ranked lifter across all Games divisions, she has the London Olympics in her sights in 2012.

"I'm going back to Samoa to train very hard because I want to do well," she said. "It's very good for me to have my family support."

The pair are heading to New Zealand for a family reunion before returning to Vaoala and training.

- NZ Herald

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