Samoa claimed gold in the Men’s 105kg weightlifting at Gold Coast 2018 as David Katoatau, who hinted that this could be his final Commonwealth Games, recovered from a nervous start to finish in fifth place overall.
Katoatau arrived in Australia a much more recognisable figure than he did in Glasgow four years earlier. There, his triumph in the same event sparked a big media interest around him, thanks in part to his charismatic dancing and unbending smile. But, with that victory came great responsibility and expectation. Starring at the opening ceremony as his nation’s flag bearer – an honour he also had at Rio 2016 – he has become a focal point for Kiribati’s sporting achievements. Likewise, at the Carrara Sports & Leisure Centre the near capacity crowd expected a similarly impressive performance from the defending champion.
Sadly, it was not to be, as an initial ‘no lift’ set the tone. On his second attempt, the 33 year old was left gasping at the way he stumbled for balance, but he kept his cool to hold an initial 140kg. As David emerged for his final attempt at 144kg, many fans responded with cheers and applause. Clutching the bar, Katoatu launched the weight into the air with that much force he overbalanced and collapsed backwards onto the floor. The despair displayed on David’s face proved how frustrated this performance had left him, his medal hopes just as unbalanced as he was. However, the holder of Kiribati’s only ever Commonwealth medal was brought to his feet by the ovation of the crowd.
At the half way mark, after the snatch the defending champion was in eighth place.
Elsewhere, Samoa’s Sanele Mao powered through the snatch finishing top of the leaderboard, keeping the possibility of a Pacific gold medal very much alive.
Katoatau was quick to make up ground in the clean & jerk, which he admitted was his favoured discipline, with two confident lifts bringing him closer to the top three. Whilst it was clear that a medal finish was increasingly unlikely after his shortcomings in the snatch, here he showed glimpses of the man that illuminated Glasgow 2014. After a successful final 200kg lift he clapped his hands, sending a plume of chalk into the air, and a brief but well-received dance marked the end of his Commonwealth reign.
“I feel stronger in the clean & jerk, but I made a mistake and I didn’t make it [onto the podium],” reflected a still smiling Katoatau.
“Glasgow was a great experience but this is time it didn’t go so well.”
As he bowed out, the fight for gold went down to the wire between Samoan Sanele Mao and India’s Pardeep Singh. It was Singh who was first to crack. Dropping the weights in a ‘do or die’ finale. His heartbreak was the Samoan’s joy and Mao’s gold means that you have to go back to Melbourne 2006 for a 105kg Commonwealth champion born outside of the Pacific - Canada’s Akos Sandor.
Speaking of Mao’s victory he said:
“I’m so happy that he’s winning for the Pacific, I’m so excited for him.”
The Kiribati athlete has done so much for his country’s sporting prowess as well as his promotion of global warning concerns on the island. Now he is beginning to look towards new challenges, with a greater focus on the youth of Kiribati, with his sights set on watching Kiribati athletes compete in future Games from behind-the-scenes:
“I’m happy with my performance. Now I will go home and become a coach.”
And so, while his high profile performances are now coming to an end, the impact he has had on Pacific weightlifting is far from over.
By The Reporters’ Academy - Phil Weller, Lucy Budsworth (words) & Simon Smith (photos)
Last Modified on 09/04/2018 23:55