Papatoetoe High School student’s golden run at Oceania Games

In little more than a year, Joachim Setefano has made huge strides on the weightlifting scene.

The 17-year-old Year 12 Papatoetoe High School student's crowning glory came last month when he won gold in the youth 94kg+ category of the Oceania Games in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea.

He addressed a Papatoetoe school assembly on his achievements, speaking with humility and humour, just before his chat with the Herald.

"I was preparing to try and win. I was trying to get all six of my lifts right. A medal would be the outcome of all the training," he said.


His combined total of 265kg - 115kg in the snatch and 150kg in the clean and jerk - was good enough for gold, just ahead of Montel Tivoli from Rutherford College. Setefano's clean and jerk was also enough for the New Zealand Youth lifting record. He set four in all at the event. He felt that he was close to his peak with training lifts of 110kg in the snatch and 145kg in the clean and jerk.

New Zealand did well in PNG, coming away with 13 medals. Two others from south Auckland schools won medals. Douglas Manzo of Manurewa took gold in the Under 85kg class, while Southern Cross' Uaealesi Funaki took silver in the same class.

The past 12 months under the tutelage of coach Simon Kent and the Bruce Pulman Park School Sports Academy have seen Setefano focus clearly on what he needs to do with his training and diet.

"Before I never really had purpose with my training. It's shaped my perspective. I know how my exercises are going to help with competition now," said Setefano.

"In PNG I was really excited and nervous at the same time. When I was warming up, I was getting pumped up. My coach just repeated the importance of technique. He's been a good mentor for me."

Kent got him into weightlifting after he had been playing prop for the Papatoetoe Under 15 rugby side.

"We had a training session with him. He was trying to get boys into it. I went down one morning and really liked it."

Now he eats with more balance, rather than just a big breakfast, no lunch and big dinner, and his flexibility has also improved markedly.


Papatoetoe principal Peter Gall, himself a rugby man, would love to see Setefano give his old sport a go again. The man himself jokes that he might have to start running if that were the case!

He'll be in the junior lifting category next year and, if his improvement continues on this upward curve, the 2018 Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast loom as a real possibility.

Next on the horizon is next month's North Island schools weightlifting champs in Otara, while in early October he will represent the Papatoetoe Olympic weightlifting club at the national champs in Wellington. But he says education is his priority, so he won't be putting in more than four sessions a week in the lead-up to the Otara event, unlike the nine he was doing before the Oceanias.

Setefano is something of an allrounder, his love of music and singing aligning nicely with his starring role as Link Larkin in the school musical Hairspray. Sounds like a powerful young man with his head screwed on the right way.