News and Media


Doha, Day 10: Rainibogi hits top form to end Fiji’s 70-year wait for a male medallist on global stage

Azerbaijan and Armenia were the winners on the penultimate day of the IWF Grand Prix in Qatar. Arguably the biggest achievement of the day, though, was Taniela Rainibogi’s show of strength in the men’s 109kg.

In making six-from-six for a huge career best of 170-210-380, Rainibogi became the first male lifter from Fiji to win a medal at a global competition. There have been medals in Oceania and Commonwealth events, but none in a competition open to the world.

Taniela Rainibogi (FIJ)

Eileen Cikamatana, who was third in the women’s 81kg yesterday, won plenty of international medals for Fiji before she switched to Australia. Now Rainibogi has ended Fiji’s wait for a man to do the same.

“I think our first lifter competed in 1953, so it took us 70 years to do it,” said national coach Henry Elder.

Rainibogi improved his best snatch by 5kg, clean and jerk by 18kg and total by 23kg in finishing third behind Dadash Dadashbayli from Azerbaijan. He would have been second but for a career-best lift of 219kg by Bekdoolot Rasulbekov from Kyrgyzstan, which won clean and jerk gold and silver on total.

“This was the big one for me, this is special,” said Rainibogi, whose training preparations were for two competitions rather than one. Nineteen days ago he won gold in the Solomon Islands at the Pacific Games, which doubled up as the Oceania Championships. He missed his last two attempts in a total of 357kg there. There were no failures today.

“I trained hard, and this time we had a special training camp in Samoa where I lifted with my friend Don,” said Rainibogi, 25. He was referring to Don Opeloge, the Samoan who won a clean and jerk medal in Doha on Tuesday and is well placed to qualify for Paris 2024 at 102kg.

Rainibogi, who weighed in at 107.9kg today, will drop down to the Olympic weight for his last two qualifiers in New Zealand and Thailand next year. If he can match today’s numbers he will be only 6kg behind Opeloge in the Paris rankings.

His improvement is all the remarkable given he had three years out of the sport after finishing third at the 2018 Commonwealth Games, when he lifted at 85kg. During a dispute between Fiji’s athletes and their federation, Rainibogi moved to New Zealand.

“I did seasonal work there, and came back to Fiji when it was all sorted out,” he said. “Then I worked in construction, carrying bricks.” He bulked up by more than 20kg, trained again on his home island of Levuka, and now trains full-time in Suva, the capital.

Dadashbayli made 176-212-388, well below the 403kg he made in finishing third at the World Championships in Saudi Arabia three months ago. Rasulbekov made 162-219-381. Sargis Martirosjan, 37, became the oldest medallist in Doha when he took snatch bronze on 166kg for Austria.

Dadash Dadashbayli (AZE)

Armenia had two strong entries in the women’s 87kg but they were pushed all the way by Anamjan Rustamova from Turkmenistan. Winner Hripsime Khurshudyan, 36, was junior world champion in 2007. Rustamova, 17, was second at the World Juniors in Mexico three weeks ago.

The women’s 87kg podium

Rustamova needed her last lift to have a chance of gold but dropped it behind, finishing second on a career-best 105-126-231. Khurshudyan and her team-mate Tatev Hakobyan also failed with their final attempts. Khurshudyan made 102-126-232 and third-placed Hakobyan 107-123-230.

By Brian Oliver

Photos by Giorgio Scala/Deepbluemedia