Olympic Miss

For the past three years, I’ve been misled by my coaches and some officials about the issues between Weightlifting Fiji and the Levuka group. I boycotted Weightlifting Fiji thinking I was doing the right thing. "Apolonia Vaivai Weightlifter"
23 Jan 2021 16:49
Olympic Miss
Apolonia Vaivai during the Women’s 69kg Group B weightlifting contest at the 2016 Olympic Games on August 10, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Photo: Julian Finney

She qualified on merit to take part at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games and she could have qualified on merit again for the Tokyo Olympics in July.

Instead, she sank into oblivion wasting the past three years after listening to the wrong people who gave her the wrong advice.

On Thursday, weightlifter Apolo­nia Vaivai apologised to Weight­lifting Fiji for deviating from the norm and bringing the sport to disrepute for her actions being a reputable athlete.

This was after the 2016 Fiji’s Sportswoman of the Year stood by the Levuka Weightlifting Club in boycotting WF events following the appointment of Hossein Tava­koli as a national coach in 2018.

The repercussions of the saga resulted in her losing her Inter­national Olympic Committee scholarship where she could have gained more experience and put her in good stead to compete with the best in the world at the global showpiece.

And on a national scale due to the saga, Weightlifting Fiji (WF) could not take part because it could not take part in the Olympic qualifi­ers.

Apart from sevens rugby, we re­gard weightlifting as sport that could also win us a medal.

Vaivai admitted Weightlifting Fiji had done so much for her, but she was swayed by the tempting words of a few.

Vaivai said: “For the past three years, I’ve been misled by my coaches and some officials about the issues between Weightlifting Fiji and the Levuka group.

“I boycotted Weightlifting Fiji thinking I was doing the right thing but I now realise I was mis­led and I regret my decision to leave my career behind,” she said.

“I made a mistake in giving up my IOC scholarship and remov­ing myself from the sport that has given me so much.”


Vaivai was on track to excel in Tokyo after she won thre gold medals in three consecutive Com­monwealth Championships from 2016-2018, the only Fiji athlete to ever do so.

She won bronze medals at the 2018 Commonwealth Games.

This is a sad case where athletes are made to suffer because they have been misguided by the very people who they trust to run the show for them.

The rule is indeed simple on how sporting bodies operate in Fiji.

Like, rugby, rugby league, cricket, football, netball, bowling, badmin­ton etc, there is only one control­ling authority running the show and recognised by Fiji Association of Sports and National Olympic Committees (FASANOC).

The IOC recognises International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) which in turns recognises Weight­lifting Fiji which comes un¬der FASANOC. That’s how the system works and there is no other way.

We won our first gold medal at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games due to FASANOC and Fiji Rugby Union working in tandem.

Likewise Eileen Cikamatana won gold at the 2018 Commonwealth Games through Weightlifting Fiji.

This is not the first time this has happened in Fiji where disgrun­tled officials formed rebel groups to champion their cause.

In the end, athletes suffer. The bottom line is sports are governed by rules which must be followed.

Edited by Leone Cabenatabua


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