The Oceania Weightlifting Institute
In 2001 Paul Coffa the Oceania General Secretary , left Nauru with his family and moved to the beautiful islands of Fiji . He settled in the town of Sigatoka . After spending all of his life in weightlifting, and after seeing how much potential there was on the island of Nauru and the Pacific in general, he felt compelled to do something for weightlifting in Sigatoka for the region.
With the assistance of the local city and his own funds, he built a weightlifting gym and called it the Oceania Weightlifting Institute. He bought 10 sets of weights, he built 10 platforms and the Oceania Weightlifting Institute was created. It was an instant success and most of the Pacific National Olympic Committees through the IOC Solidarity program started to send their athletes to train in Sigatoka.
At the 2004 Olympic Games, 9 lifters from 7 countries made the Olympic Games.
Institute lifters started to win World Championship medals.
The success continued and 33 medals out of a possible 45 were won by Institute athletes at the South Pacific Games in Suva in 2003.
In October 2005, after lengthy discussions and meetings with the Government of Samoa and with the assistance of Seiuli Paul Wallwork who at that time was President of the Oceania Weightlifting Federation, it was decided to relocate the Institute to a brand new stadium which Samoa had built for the 2007 South Pacific Games. The Prime Minister of Samoa who is presently the Patron of the OWF, opened the facility in Apia , Samoa . The facility was world standard and the Institute continued to produce outstanding results.
Ele Opeloge, the 75+kg super athlete, who narrowly missed out on a bronze medal at the Beijing Olympic Games by just 1kg, started her career one month after the opening of the facility and was part of the Institute program until October 2007.
Most of the lifters from Sigatoka, also relocated to Apia and their success continued. Another medal was won with Manuel Minginfel at the 2006 World Championships in Santo Domingo .
Two world events were held in Apia whilst the Institute was there. The Pacific Rim International, the World Cup and in both events Dr. Tamas Ajan, President of the IWF was in attendance. And the third event of course was the 2007 South Pacific Games which Samoa organized. In the sport of weightlifting at the South Pacific Games the success of the Institute was outstanding with lifters winning 39 gold out of a possible 45.
It was obvious to every country of the Pacific, that the Institute was unique and very successful with its results. Quite a few countries showed a lot of interest in having the Institute program and New Caledonia took the initiative by offering the OWF a brand new training facility and accommodation specifically for the sport of weightlifting.
In 2007 after a number of meetings between the New Caledonia Mnister for Sport, Le Comité Térritorial Olympique et Sportif (CTOS) Mr.Ronald Frere the President of the Regional Weightlifting Federation, the 2011 Pacific Games Council, and the OWF General Secretary , Paul Coffa, it was decided to relocate the Institute program to New Caledonia.
In February 2008, the Institute program commenced in New Caledonia . Temporary facilities were made available until the Institute building was completed.
In 2008, of the 14 lifters from the Oceania Region who took part at the Beijing Olympic Games, 9 were institute lifters from nine Pacific countries plus a former institute lifter from Samoa making it 10 lifters from 10 Pacific countries.
The new weightlifting institute building specifically built to cater for the Institute program is now ready and it was opened on Saturday, 1st August, by the President of the New Caledonia Government, Mr. Philippe Gomez, the Mayor of the City of Mont Dore, Mr.Eric Gay, and His Excellency, Marcus Stephen, President of the OWF.
Over 250 guests were in attendance including many Heads of State of the Pacific Island nations.
IWF was represented by Mr. Ma, General Secretary. Regional IOC members also have been invited to attend.
The Institute facilities includes a main training hall with 18 platforms, a second training hall which includes 10 platforms plus general weight training equipment, changing facilities for men and women, weigh-in rooms, doping control room, offices, and reception area. The accommodation area includes twelve rooms with en-suite facilities catering for 24 athletes, a large dining room, television room, kitchen facilities, utilities room, meeting room and the OWF Weightlifting office.
It is interesting that already quite a few countries outside of the Oceania region have expressed interest in training at the Institute here in New Caledonia.