Editorial comment – Questions linger

Eileen Cikamatana takes a bow after breaking the world record with a clean and jerk of 150kg during the Australian National Junior Weightlifting Championships at Sydney Olympic Park on Sunday. Picture: SAM RUTTYN/ Sunday Telegraph

THE revelation by the permanent secretary for Sports Maretino Nemani of Government’s assistance in the development of our golden girl of weightlifting, Eileen Cikamatana, will attract interest.

Yesterday, Mr Maretino urged sports organisations to look after their athletes well.

His views came after Cikamatana broke 46 records during the 2019 Quaycentre Australian Junior & Under-23 Championships in Sydney at the weekend.

Cikamatana was suspended by Weightlifting Fiji with other weightlifters from Levuka following internal differences last year.

That came in the wake of her gold medal win at the 2018 Commonwealth Games at the Gold Coast in Australia.

Her suspension has forced the Levuka weightlifter to make a move to Australia where she is now turning heads.

Mr Maretino believes sporting federations need to tread carefully in the management of elite athletes if we are to retain talented and high performing athletes like Eileen, “noting this can only go so far before they are snatched away”.

Congratulating Cikamatana for her achievement in Sydney, he said she had done herself and the sport proud.

He said it was unfortunate that Eileen had transitioned to Australia.

“Let’s not forget that this Fijian Government had contributed to her development and success,” he said.

“Eileen was given funding of $45,000 to assist in her training in New Caledonia at the Oceania Weightlifting Institute and was awarded a FASANOC Olympic solidarity scholarship in addition to our grants.

“To assist with her overseas attendance at international events as part of the weightlifting team, a further $217,000 was provided from 2016-2018.”

The massive injection of funds now raises questions for Weightlifting Fiji and all stakeholders in this turn of events.

Was enough done to retain our gold medal hopeful?

Did we pull out all stops to discuss issues and reach an amicable solution?

Last weekend Cikamatana broke six Australian senior records; six Australian junior records; six Australian U23 records; six Commonwealth senior records; six Commonwealth junior records; six Oceania senior records and six Oceania junior records in an amazing show of strength.

It was a powerful effort that rocked the weightlifting fraternity there.

The harsh reality is that such powerful athletes do not just pop out of the woodwork.

It takes years to unveil them, leave aside the fact that Cikamatana will only turn 20 next month.

There is the question of return on investment that will linger, and whether the end result of this episode was the right one.

But what an effort from our iron woman!

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