Another Successful Opening for the Oceania's Premier League

For the second year running, the Oceania Weightlifting Federation has started its Online League Tournament with the opening round on the first weekend of June. The League, which resemble football, are being held online, not only in response to the pandemic but for convenience and accessibility’s sake.

The idea for this League Tournament format came from the OWF’s General Secretary Paul Coffa, who explains: "It was implemented last year (2020) due to the fact that all competitions in our region were cancelled because of the pandemic. The only way that I could get the region to compete was to initiate an online tournament ". Different countries connect once a month to lift together and many have seen this initiative as a way to boost that competitive spirit that has been on pause due to the pandemic. "Last year we had nine rounds with nineteen countries competing. We also had prize money given by the Australian Federation with the first prize being $10,000" Coffa says.

The only difference between this year’s League and last year’s is that this time, the Oceania Weightlifting Federation has decided to separate the League into three groups. This modification has come about after seeing how some countries participated more than others, with some struggling to find enough weightlifters.

This way, the Premier League has eight countries, each represented by a total of 16 lifters made up of 8 men and 8 women. There are eight rounds and competitions take place once a month. League A features teams with limited numbers. Seven selected countries each compete with a total of 8 lifters made up of 4 men and 4 women, participating every month.

And finally, countries with fewer representatives will also have a place in the competition and they are registered in League B. This third group will begin lifting on the 3rd of July with five teams comprising of 4 lifters each team. That is 2 men and 2 women. They will have seven rounds of competition.

"After the enormous success of this League tournament last year, all the member countries were looking forward to this year again" the Oceanic General Secretary says. The first weekend was very well supported. It was held on June the 4th & 5th and more than 170 weightlifters competed in the AUD$80,000 League Tournament. The first round produced some world class performances, particularly from the Samoan team.

First Round Highlights

The Premier League saw lifters from Australia, Fiji, Kiribati, Nauru, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Samoa taking part.

Sanele Mao from Samoa registered a 406kg total, and Don Opeloge in the 96kg body weight category, 391kg. The Samoans had been training extremely hard leading up to this first round. One of the highlights of the Samoan team was 19-year-old John Tafi in the 67kg category totaling a massive 306kg and defeating for the first time his Samoan teammate Nevo Ioane who totaled his best ever, 303kg. Samoa defeated Australia by 371.40kg.

There was also a great battle between New Zealand and the young team from Nauru. Some outstanding performances from both teams took place, with New Zealand winning in the end by a mere 17.58kg.

Team Kiribati defeated an incredibly young team from Papua New Guinea by 430.60kg. Papua New Guinea entered many new recruits in this first round and could not overcome the strength of the Kiribati team.

The Solomon Islands and Fiji match was a close battle with the Solomon Islands coming out as winners by 112.68kg. It was also nice to see the return of Fiji lifter Apolonia Vaivai.

League A also kicked off at the same time as the Premier League with seven countries competing against each other, this time Guam, Cook Islands, Marshall Islands, Northern Marianas, New Caledonia, Tonga and Tahiti, with Marshall Islands having a bye in the first round.

There were some real promising results in League A. Tahiti for the first time competing with a full team, produced some excellent results from new lifters which Oceania has not seen before. They defeated CNMI (Northern Marianas) by 141Kg.

This first round also saw some new names coming from the Northern Marianas, and will be a great start for them in preparation for the Mini Pacific Games to be held in Saipan next year in June.

There was another great battle between Guam and New Caledonia. Guam in the end came out as winners but both teams produced some amazing results.

Cook Islands competed for the first time as a team in the League A tournament. There were some great results but unfortunately Tonga did not enter a team for this round and therefore Cook Islands took full points.

According to Mr Coffa, this initiative works thanks to a great internal organization with its own process "The Leagues are organised by the OWF, and each country runs its competition each month from their federations. The results are then sent to me, I collate all data within 48 hours from the time the competition finishes and then I disseminate to everyone in the region".

Oceanic weightlifters are preparing again for the second round of competitions that will be taking place on the first weekend of July, which will include League B. The OWF is also getting ready for its 2021 OWF ONLINE CUP scheduled for June 26th & 27th, which will be another competition held online and likely a success, with 45 lifters from 12 Oceanic countries competing for the cup.

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