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Lifting weight of a nation’s expectations

other Updated: Oct 01, 2010 00:22 IST
Abhijeet Kulkarni

Weightlifting coach Paul Coffa cannot hide the disappointment from his face when one speaks about Nauru’s failure to win a gold medal at the 2006 Melbourne Commonwealth Games.

Before 2006, the tiny island that covers no more than 22 sq kms and has a population of about 13000 had won at least one gold in each edition of the Commonwealth Games since their debut in 1990.

In fact, Nauru has only fielded two non-lifters — sprinters Frederick Cannon (1994) and Aneri Canon (1998) — in the Games so far.

“We should have won a gold even in Melbourne but we can say luck was not on our side. But this time we are better prepared and I will be expecting not one but two gold medals from the six member team,” Coffa adds before pointing to the stocky Itte Detenamo as his prime candidate for gold in the 105+ kg weight category.

Detenamo managed a bronze in Melbroune and Sheba Deireragea won the silver in women’s 75kg event in Melbourne and Coffa definitely missed his most illustrious trainee, Marcus Stephen.

Stephen, now the President of Nauru, had competed in all the four Games prior to that and won 12 of the country’s 26 medals, including seven gold and five silver. Now as an administrator, Stephen has put in place a system to train the lifters.

“With Stephen at the helm, there is no problem with funding and facilities. And that means the lifters will have no excuse if we fail to win medal here,” insists Coffa, with Detenamo nodding in agreement.

While weightlifting will definitely be their focus, Nauru’s Chef de Mission Sean Oppenheimer is hoping that the boxing contingent will also make their mark. “This time we are fielding four boxers as well in the Games and I hope they show that they belong at the big stage,” adds Oppenheimer, who also the president of the boxing federation.

Oppoenheimer pointed out Nauru was only concentrating on strength-oriented sports with boxing and wrestling being the new focus areas. “The average height of Nauru male is between 5 and half inch to six. They are also very stocky and hence we are concentrating on these sports,” he added.

His confidence stems from the fact that Nauru won a silver medal in boxing at the Youth Olympic in Singapore in August 2010 and the Commonwealth Games would be the perfect stage to once again prove a point.