Editorial comment – Sporting challenge

Labasa town council workers at the ground. Picture: SOPHIE RALULU

Around this time last year we were marvelling at the amazing strength of a youngster from Levuka. We marvelled at her confidence.

We were left wondering about the future, and what it would unveil for a youngster who had slipped through our hands.

There was amazement at the stack of weights on the bar, and how young Eileen Cikamatana easily lifted them.

Cikamatana etched her name in the history books, breaking 46 weightlifting records including three world records during the Australian National and Junior Weightlifting Championships in Sydney last year!

The Commonwealth Games gold medallist was immediately ranked the number one junior weightlifter in her category in the world by 50 kilograms.

She attracted attention on the final day of the International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) Grand Prix in Lima, Peru this month last year.

She topped the women’s 87kg division, the final contest of the silver qualifier for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.

Cikamatana not only won gold in the snatch and total, she beat the 2018 world champion from China, and set a junior world record in the clean and jerk with a lift of 151kg.

According to the IWF, it was the first world record, senior or junior, achieved by an athlete from Oceania since Nicu Vlad – then lifting for Australia and among the audience in Lima – way back in 1993, and it predicted there would surely be more to come. Cikamatana won Fiji’s only gold medal in the Gold Coast after lifting 233kg in the women’s 90kg division.

She lifted 103kg in the snatch and 130kg in the clean and jerk – both in one attempt with two lifts to spare.

She holds three Commonwealth records in her weight class.

Moving forward, we can only hope we have learnt from this rather unfortunate episode and there are measures in place among our sporting bodies to identify, nurture and retain potential stars in their various disciplines.

In saying that, we shift our attention to the Fiji Football Association Cup Tournament (Fiji FACT) at Subrail Park in Labasa.

We head into the semi-finals today where Rewa will take on the might of defending champion Nadi in the first match at 3pm.

Suva is scheduled to play hosts Labasa in the second semi-final at 5pm.

Attention will no doubt be focused on the business end of the event.

This is also when we must factor in how we should be looking at our top players, and identifying talented youngsters to nurture into national representatives.

Fiji FA chief executive officer Mohammed Yusuf said the ground is expected to be in a much better shape today.

Our challenge will include how we groom our aspiring stars, and how we expose them to top level competition.

On the October ranking for FIFA, we are ranked 163 alongside Vanuatu, and ahead of Papua New Guinea on 165.

Tahiti is ranked ahead of us on 161 and New Caledonia are on 156.

The Solomon Islands are sitting on 139, below New Zealand on 121.

We have our work cut out in terms of development and exposure.

Surely there can be no doubts about the impact of this event on the minds of diehard fans.

They are expecting an action-packed weekend of soccer. We wish all the teams the very best today.

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