Battle Lines Drawn
Samoa and Australia will be battling for top honours for the Weightlifting’s Olympic Qualification places.
Samoa and Australian are running neck to neck to finish as the top two teams in both Men’s as well as the Women’s Competitions and poised to gain two places each for Rio 2016.
With top names like Mary Opeloge, the Commonwealth Champion in 2013 and 2015 and brother Petune Opeloge, they have strong lifters in the heavier weight divisions.
Australia is equally strong with a number of high quality performers with 2010 Commonwealth Games Gold Medallist Damon Kelly, Commonwealth Games Bronze medallist Erika Ropati-Frost in the 53Kg and current Oceania Champion Phillipa Malone in the 63Kg.
In the Men’s Competition, the top 5 teams will qualify one athlete each to Rio 2016.
The competitions for the remaining 3 places will be very tight. The heaviest competitions will between Fiji, Kiribati, New Zealand and Nauru.
Fiji’s campaign will be led by Manueli Tulo, the Oceania Champion in 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2014 & 2015. Tulo will be competing on the first night of competition on Tuesday 24th May, in the 56Kg Weight Division, straight after the Opening Ceremony.
David Katotau, Kiribati’s first ever Gold Medallist at any Commonwealth Games together with 8 other lifters have been training at the Oceania Weightlifting Institute in Noumea under Institute Coach, Paul Coffa, for several months. They have been totally focussed on getting their first Olympic Qualification based on merit.
New Zealand, will also have a strong team led by Richard Patterson, the 2014 Commonwealth Games Champion.
Nauru will be led by the Strongest Man Itte Detenamo, who holds every record in the 105+kg category in the Oceania and the Commonwealth and has competed at three Olympic Games. Nauru is the original powerhouse of Weightlifting in the Pacific Islands, when Marcus Stephen won their first Commonwealth Games Gold Medal, in Auckland in 1990.
In the Women’s Competition, the race for the four places for Rio will be even tighter.
The main race for 3rd and 4th place will be between Fiji, New Zealand and Solomon Islands.
Fiji will be led by Apolonia Vaivai, the 2015 Commonwealth Champion. She will be supported by Commonwealth Youth Games Gold Medallists Eileen Cikamatana and Ulina Saqone, together with Consistent Julia Timi and Seruwaia Malani. Team Fiji will be counting on Commonwealth Youth Games Silver Medallist Maria Moana and first-time Setaita Ratubalavu to contribute strongly towards the team points.
New Zealand is entering a strong team with their athletes ranked in the top 5 in in all the weight divisions.
Solomon Islands, will arrive at the Championships eager to spoil the party by squeezing into the top 4. They will be led by Jenly Wini, who for many years was Maria Liku’s main opposition. Jenly has been Oceania Champion in 2013, 2014 and 2015. In 2015 she won the Commonwealth Championships in Pune, India.
Meanwhile Papua New Guinea, another Oceania weightlifting powerhouse will not be fielding full teams in either the Men’s or Women’s categories. They are focussed and looking to qualify athletes directly on merit by becoming ranked in the TOP 15 in the World.
Currently Morea Baru is ranked 7th in the World. He will need to repeat the performance at the Olympic Qualifying event in Suva.
Similarly, in the Women’s Division, Thelma Toua, the younger sister of 2006 Commonwealth Gold Medalist Dika Toua will need to be at her best to get this ranking.
The Oceania Championships will have several other Big names.
There is probably no bigger name than Manuel Minginfel from Federated States Of Micronesia, who has been Oceania Champion since 2003 and a former SILVER Medallist at the World Championships.