APIA: 11 April 2012: The best and enduring Samoan weightlifters once trained in an open tent at roadside Sogi in full view of passing traffic and pedestrians. Amongst them was Commonwealth Gold Medalist Niusila Opeloge.
The cement of the floor of their training facility had cracks, Samoa Weightlifting Federation (SWF), Tuaopepe Jerry Wallwork, said.
Today, SWF lifters train at the sports complex at Tuana’imato in one of the larger places under a roof in the country. Amongst them still is Niusila, the sole survivor from the tent days, if you don’t count Tuaopepe.
The weightlifting warrior has gotten better over the years. Achievement in the sport peaked with a gold medal at the 2010 New Delhi Commonwealth last year.
Niusila took up weightlifting in 1996. Now he is the top ranked lifter in the Commonwealth in the 205kg division, a position he holds in Oceania and Pacific regions. At last years Pacific Games in New Caledonia he set a new South Pacific record of 152kg in the snatch in the 105kg division. Earlier this year at the Australian nationals in Melbourne he lifted the record to 153kg.
At training recently “Nius” applied a bag of ice to a thigh and it led to a discussion of injuries and possibly thoughts of retirement. After all he started at age 16, and it’s been a long time since and weightlifting demands much from a body.
Except for Sundays, training is often a daily event and the metals lifted in the process are not light things. Nor is the discipline in diet easy to maintain.
To get up on a platform in front of an audience to perform alone can wilt a weightlifter, so the mental side of the sport is important. So it takes exceptional commitment to reach the top and stay there year in and year out.
Well not quite yet. Niusila still breaks records which is an indication his strength is on the increase, the veteran pointed out.
“My aim is to retire in 2014,” he said. That will be after the next Commonwealth in Scotland.
“I’ll be 34.”
Niusila’s older brothers used weights so they were always around their house at Vaoala. After school he would watch weightlifters train in a facility behind Molesi in town. He saw the weights were bigger than the ones at home. He wanted to give the sport a go, which he did and liked the experience.
“So I became committed to it and trained.”
Things turned to gold two years later in a South Pacific Games meet and a silver in the Oceania. He won a gold in Oceania a year later, in 1999, and Nius began his reign of dominance in his division in the region.
He rose to his highest achievement to date with a bronze medal at the Commonwealth Games in Manchester in 2002. The next year he maintained his grip of the gold medals at the South Pacific Games in Fiji.
But the two events saw him struck by serious injuries – a dislocated knee at Manchester and a dislocated shoulder in Fiji. So he sat out 2004 because of surgery to both injuries.
A ban after a drug test took him out of the sport in 2009. But upon his return he surfaced to the top in the Pacific and Oceania again. And now in the Commonwealth where he is ranked top of the 105kg division.
Dad, Opeloge Opeloge, named his son after New Zealand – a country, which the senior Opeloge does not want to live. Except when he can do some fishing with a rod, after a week there he wants to return home, said Opeloge senior. But his parents and his brothers and sisters had all moved there, he said.
When his future Commonwealth gold medalist son was born, Opeloge said his own father wanted the baby named after the country they lived in.
“My father always said New Zealand is a good country,” said Opeloge.
Niusila now has his own son, Rudolf, born just recently on March 29. It was a happy event because the first three of his children, Rosalia, Rosemary and Juliet, are girls. A week in hospital to be with wife Florence, however, interrupted training and at the recent nationals Nius was not at his best.
Opeloge said Niusila is a good example to his children all of whom he wants to take up weightlifting. Five have done so, the most known of course apart from Niusila being Ele and Mary. Tovia, a younger brother, has joined Niusila in the 105kg division.
“We rely very much on God in this sport,” said Opeloge.
Opeloge mentions another requirement: “If we don’t work hard ….”
“We want to win.
“That’s our aim.”