Nemani calls for good governance

SUNDAY TELEGRAPH - 17/8/19 Australian National Junior Weightlifting Championships at Sydney Olympic Park. Eileen Cikamatana - 19yo from Fiji who is hoping her Aussie citizenship comes through in time to qualify to compete for Australia at the Tokyo Olympics. Eileen breaks the world record with a clean and jerk of 155kg. Picture: Sam Ruttyn

THE permanent secretary for the Ministry of Sports, Maretino Nemani, has called on local sports organisations to look after their athletes well.

Nemani, a former Suva and national football captain and former Suva Football Association president, said athletes contributed to the Fijian economy.

“The big picture is these athletes or players will be contributing to the Fijian economy in the medium to long term, secondly a sustainable professional future and livelihood for our athletes,” Maretino said.

He made the comment after The Fiji Times sought his remarks after Fiji’s Eileen Cikamatana broke some weightlifting records during the 2019 Quaycentre Australian Junior & Under- 23 Championships in Sydney last weekend.

Cikamatana was suspended from Weightlifting Fiji with some weightlifters from Levuka because of internal differences after she won Fiji’s lone gold medal in the 2018 Commonwealth Games at Gold Coast, Australia.

Now she is playing in Australia and had applied for citizenship.

To avoid similar cases in the future, Nemani called on Fijian sports administrators to look after their athletes well.

“Sporting federations need to tread more carefully in the management of elite athletes that is if we are to retain talented and high performing athletes like Eileen, noting this can only go so far before they are snatched away,” he said.

“We congratulate Cikamatana for her fabulous achievement and world record-breaking lifts at the World Junior Weightlifting Championships in Sydney, Australia. She has done herself and the sports proud and something to feel good about being a Fijian. It’s rather sad and unfortunate that Eileen has transitioned to Australia.

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

Australian Weightlifting Federation CEO Ian Moir confirmed that the 20-year-old Levuka athlete would miss the Japan Olympics next year, but had a great future in front of her.

Last weekend, Cikamatana broke six (6) Australian senior records; 6 Australian junior records; 6 Australian U23 records; 6 Commonwealth senior records; 6 Commonwealth junior records; 6 Oceania senior records and 6 Oceania junior records, Moir said.

“The weights Eileen lifted on two of clean and jerk attempts exceeded the current World Junior record, and her combined total equaled the current World Junior record standard.

“Although she can’t claim world records until her Australian citizenship is finalised and she competes internationally again, it’s fair to say that she broke those records by exceeding them in these Australian championships.

“She’s training and progressing very well and competing and has a permanent residency status of Australia.

“Definitely too late for Tokyo because of the qualification system. She has not competed in the qualifying events, but she’s very young and plenty of events and years ahead of her.

“We are happy to have Eileen here and we hope she keeps doing what she is doing and she can be the world champion,” Moir said from Sydney, Australia, last night.

Meanwhile, Fiji Weightlifters Association secretary Peni Tawai has called on Australian-based Weightlifting Fiji president Atma Maharaj to step down.

Emails sent to WF and Maharaj yesterday were not answered when this issue went to press.

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