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The last wish of a father

Moment of the Year by Paul Coffa

What a tragic World Championships it was for a young weightlifter from Palau, Stevick Patris – especially as it was his first ever World Championships. This young athlete had been coached by his father ‘Steve Patris’ the President of the Palau Weightlifting Federation and Category 1 Referee, since the age of 14.

The Patris family has a long history in the Pacific region as a weightlifting family. Steve Patris took over the Presidency of the Weightlifting Federation in Palau in the year 2000. First, he coached his two daughters Alexandra and Alexandrina, affectionately known as the Patris twins in the region.

These two girls won many medals competing at Pacific Games, Mini Games, Oceania Championships and other major events. In fact Alexandrina competed in the 63kg category at the 2007 World Championships in Thailand.

These twins, with similar names, are identical. They are so identical that many times they caused problems and confusion at the weigh-in. When their father Steve brought the twins to the Institute to train, I had to ask one twin to put a colored ribbon in her hair because I had no idea which one was.

Some days, just to be cheeky they would swap the ribbon and whilst I thought I was speaking to Alexandra, I was actually speaking to her twin sister Alexandrina.

Early in 2011, we found out that Steve Patris was not well. He sent me an email requesting assistance for his son Stevick with his preparation for the Pacific Games which were to be held in New Caledonia in September 2011. At the time I was not aware of the extent of Steve’s illness. So with the assistance of the Palau Olympic Committee, young Stevick Patris came to train at the Institute in New Caledonia.

He arrived in the June at the age of 19, at a bodyweight of 62kg and was doing 95kg Snatch and 120kg Clean & Jerk. By the Pacific Games on September 4th, Stevick won a silver medal in the Clean & Jerk with 131kg and a bronze medal in the Total with 233kg. He competed against lifters like Manuel Minginfel from Micronesia one of the best Oceania lifters ever and silver medallist in the Clean & Jerk at the 2006 World Championships in Santo Domingo.

Stevick’s father, Steve was absolutely delighted when told that his son had won two medals in New Caledonia. And from his bedside he requested the Palau Olympic Committee that young Stevick stay at the Institute to prepare for the 2011 IWF World Championships Paris, France.

During this period of time, Steve’s health deteriorated rapidly. He asked that no matter what happens that young Stevick was to continue with his training and compete in Paris.

But what we didn’t know was just how sick he was then. Very sadly only a few days before Stevick was to leave for Paris, he received a telephone call from the family to inform him that his father had passed away. “And that his father’s last wish was for his son to compete in the World Championships in Paris”.

The family postponed the funeral, so that young Stevick could compete in Paris. He returned to Palau immediately after competing for the funeral. It was a tragedy for this young lifter to compete under these conditions. Furthermore, the return flight was 30 hours from Paris to Palau as he travelled alone to return for his father’s funeral.

Yet the admiration he gained for his bravery was immense from his fellow regional lifters, for competing under these circumstances.

The World Championships proved to be too much for young Stevick. Unfortunately he only succeeded with his first Snatch and first Clean & Jerk and came last in the 62kg category. I suppose those lifters and officials who took part in that particular session, would have judged young Stevick’s performance as “below standard”. But for those who knew his circumstances, his courage and efforts, to all of us, was a gold medal performance.

Regardless of his performance and his placing at the World Championships, young Stevick had fulfilled his father’s dream.

Paul Coffa


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