Samoa Observer

APIA, Samoa (Aug. 19, 2008) - Today’s Topic: This star athlete has a bright future ahead of her.

I know, I know. We were all gutted, weren’t we?

If you were anything like us -- our two layout artists and our printing guys - who had to hold the front page until about 3 a.m. on Saturday morning, to await the results from Ele Opeloge’s lift in Beijing, you’ll know what we’re talking about.

Glued to the live scoring on the official Beijing Olympics website in the early hours of the morning, it was gut-wrenching stuff when it showed Ele had failed her last 152kgs clean and jerk, missing out on a historical bronze medal by one kilogram.

Yes, one lousy kilo!

But I guess the mark of a great athlete is that even when you lose, people still consider you a winner.

Although Ele did not win a medal at the Beijing Olympics, she still won a lot of hearts, especially here in her home country.

She narrowly missed out on winning Samoa’s first ever medal at any Olympic Games, losing out to Kazakhstan’s Mariya Grabovetskaya in the bronze medal round.

This also meant Ele lost the chance to win for herself a handsome financial bonus, as promised by the Prime Minister, which will go towards any Samoan athlete who wins any medal at the Olympics.

But take Ele’s efforts into context, then you will see how much this young and promising Samoan athlete has achieved.

It is only by considering all the factors that the magnitude of what this brave girl has attained can be fully realized and appreciated.

First of all, this is Ele’s first ever Olympics, her first real taste of the ‘big time’.

She may have attended other major international and regional competitions before, but this is the pinnacle of all sporting events, the holy grail of sports.

For Ele to qualify for the Olympics was a massive achievement on its own, considering the caliber of other athletes who have missed out. And for her to come fourth in the world in her class is an amazing feat for someone like Ele, who is both young and relatively inexperienced, compared to lifters from other countries.

Ele lifted with some of the best in the world in her class.

Out of 11 of them, she claimed the fourth spot. This is the closest that Samoa has ever gotten to winning a medal at the Olympics.

The fact that it took a woman to bring us this close immediately brings to mind that favorite catch-cry among our women, ‘E au le inailau a tamaitai.’

Secondly, at only 25 years of age, Ele is considered very young and new to the sport. She’s only been a serious weightlifter for less than three years.

The women that she went up against were seasoned lifters who have taken part in numerous weightlifting competitions and championships. And they come from the traditional powerhouses of the sport, Asia and Europe.

Yet mingling up there with them, is a little known girl from Samoa, a tiny country in the South Pacific with a small athlete base, which has never fielded a female weightlifter before at any Olympics.

You see that’s what makes Ele’s current ranking so remarkable - here she was from a country that has never been represented in women’s weightlifting, yet she posed a great threat to her fellow competitors.

The point is, there is so much untapped potential and unrealized power that we can look forward to expect from this dynamo in the future.

One cannot wait to see Ele at her peak some time very soon. And when that happens, look out London Olympics 2012.

Congratulations to Ele and coach Tuaopepe Jerry Wallwork for the amazing feat they have achieved together in Beijing. Let’s also not forget Paul Coffa who played a huge role in developing Ele’s talents in the early stages.

Malo foi le tapuai i le aiga o Ele and the whole of Samoa.

Ele Opeloge – commit that name to memory, because we will be seeing a whole lot more of her on the weightlifting front. Let’s hope she gets better and better.

Enjoy the rest of the Beijing Olympics, Samoa!

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