6 Jun 2018

Sport: Fiji's weightlifters to boycott Oceania Champs

1:09 pm on 6 June 2018

Fiji's weightlifting team has is boycotting this months Oceania Championships in New Caledonia after being told they would have to train under a new coach.

All of Fiji's lifters at the recent Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast are from the Levuka Weightlifting Club, including gold medal winner Eileen Cikamatana, who is the worlds top ranked junior in the women's 90kg division, and bronze medallist Apolonia Vaivai.

Fiji weightlifter Eileen Cikamatana

Eileen Cikamatana won gold at the 2018 Commonwealth Games. Photo: RNZ Pacific/Vinnie Wylie

Cikamatana, who is also ranked third in the world in senior competition, has also pulled out of the upcoming World Junior and World Senior Championships.

The President of the Levuka Club, Peni Tawai says the 18 year old, who is also ranked third in world in seniors, and her fellow lifters will not compete at the Oceania Championships unless Weightlifting Fiji drops plans to make them move to Suva to work under a new national coach from Iran.

He said the Levuka lifters are happy and successful where they are, with their long-time coach Joweti Tuwai, and were not consulted about the changes.

"That's why we are not giving up on our national coach because we believe (in) him," he said.

"This has been our dream for a long time. We have been dreaming that we want (our) local coach to get Olympic medals for Fiji and know that the last coach in the sevens in 2016 even though Fiji got the gold medal but (it was) under the overseas coach (Ben Ryan from England).

"We have been dreaming of this for a long time but Weightlifting (Fiji's) President go ahead and got this coach without consulting us, the Levuka lifters at all.

"We did not have any consultation from the Weightlifting Fiji President about bringing this new coach."

A local weightlifting competition at the high performance centre in Levuka, which was destroyed by Cyclone Winston in 2016

A local weightlifting competition at the high performance centre in Levuka, which was destroyed by Cyclone Winston in 2016 Photo: Supplied

Peni Tawai said more than 30 lifters train at their gym in Levuka, which was destroyed by Cyclone Winston in 2016 and can only fit six to seven people at a time sharing two weightlifting platforms.

He said Weightlifting Fiji promised to rebuild the gym but this never happened.

The Iranian coach is due to arrive in Fiji in 2019 to coach the country's lifters for two years before returning home after the 2020 Olympics.

Mr Tawai said the families of the Levuka lifters are supportive of their stance and said they were left with no other choice.

"We are thinking of all the hard work, all the sweat we've been doing from grassroots level training these kids when they get the bar," he said.

"As soon as they lift the bar we've been there. Now it's more than a decade and we're ready to get the Olympic gold medal but all of a sudden we were surprised that somebody has come and took over the place."

Despite the escalating fall-out between Weightlifting Fiji and Levuka, Peni Tawai believed the matter could still be sorted out in time for their lifters to compete in New Caledonia.

"The sooner this issue's solved the better."

A mediator visited Levuka last week to discuss their grievances and representatives from the Fiji Olympic Committee, FASANOC and Weightlifting Fiji are due to meet with the club again on Saturday in an effort to resolve the matter.