Ovalau lifters spurred by family blessing

Fiji weight-lifter Maria Mareta (left) is supported by assistant national coach Henry Elder during a training session at the National Fitness Centre in Suva yesterday. Picture: ELIKI NUKUTABU

TEAM Fiji weight-lifters Seruwaia Malani and Maria Mareta are homesick.

They have been away from their homes at Baba Settlement in Levuka, Ovalau for more than three months.

This is because they are training for next month’s Commonwealth Games in Australia.

They are part of the national contingent to the games and while the rest of the weight-lifting team train in New Caledonia, the Ovalau lasses had been sweating it out daily at the Fiji Sports Council’s National Fitness Centre.

“It has been a long time since we see our families,” Malani, 25, said after another mid-morning training session with Weightlifting Fiji assistant national coach Henry Elder.

“So am I,” pitched in Mareta, 17.

“It is hard being away from your loved ones, but we cannot do much because our loved ones sent us here.

“They gave us their blessings because we have to work hard and win for them at the Commonwealth Games,” Malani continued.

“Leaving home is difficult, but this is the call of duty. Our parents and relatives had encouraged us to work hard and to win for the country.

“The Commonwealth Games is like the Olympics. If we win, our relatives and all Fijians will be happy, so even though we are homesick, we have a duty to do to all Fijians and we will make sure we deliver,” Mareta said.

Coach Elder is no stranger in finetuning athletes because of his experience as a trainer and an athlete.

He said competition at the Gold Coast would be tough, and Malani and Mareta should not be underestimated.

“Malani and Mareta are going through the final preparation or the Olympics phase of training.

“This is mostly working on the specifics by doing a lot of power clean and jerks, snatches, working off the blocks, speed techniques and some stabilisation to get them strong in various positions,” Elder said.

“These are the finer details, and the specifics of the lift are what we are trying to finetune to bring them to perfection.

“We are seeing some good results, and they are responding very well.

“We have a few more days of hard work before we leave for the games.”

He said weight-lifting was among the gold medal contenders for Fiji.

“Their categories are very, very tough,” Elder said.

“They will lift against some of the top weight-lifters from the Commonwealth.

“Malani has a word record holder who is a young lady from India who broke the world record in last year’s world championship.

“There are few strong ones from Malaysia.

“What we want our girls to achieve in the games is to get into the best position, hopefully in the top 10.

“We are also looking at them dominating the Oceania and Pacific standing while competing in the Commonwealth Games.

“We won two gold medals in last year’s Commonwealth Championship and came fourth in the 56kg plus for the men.

“Manueli Tulo is in that category and it is open right now, so Tulo has a high chance of winning a gold medal.

“With the women, the only other top contender with Apolonia Vaivai is a lady from Great Britain.

“She has pulled out, but apart from her, there is one from India, so a strong possibility for Vaivai while Eileen Cikamatana is a sure contender for a gold medal.”

The trio leaves for Australia next Friday with Team Fiji.