(A GNA Feature by William Ezah)
Accra, April 2, GNA - Weightlifting is obviously one of the unknown sporting disciplines in the country and had remained anonymous until its surprised dazzling showing at the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne, Australia last month.
Today the sport seems to have assumed a bench-mark role in the sporting front especially among the lesser known disciplines in the country following the amazing exploits in the Melbourne Games and the All African Games in Abuja, Nigeria in 2003.
Many of the lesser known disciplines now look at the achievements of the sport and would want to emulate its strives.
Having made its maiden appearance for the nation at the last All Africa Games in Abuja, Nigeria with a historic feat of three medals from the efforts of Michael Abotsi, the victory signs to some of us were visibly on the wall.
The sport has for the past years attained a gradual progress and popularity in the country and the performance of the lifters at the just ended Commonwealth Games further strengthens its growth.
These laurels came at a time nobody expected anything from them, right from the exploits of the lifters at the last All Africa Games and yet again, till they confirmed their prowess with a majestic performance from Majeti Fetrie who plucked one of the two gold medals won by Ghana at the games none seemed to care.
The feat, unprecedented in the history of the country when it comes to weightlifting, gives a clear indication that we have been sitting on a gold mine for the past years without recognizing its potential. It is heart warming to finally come to reckon that the entire nation has been exposed to the fact that we have denied ourselves some glory in the past years with the lack of attention extended to such a sport. The fact therefore clearly depicts the truth that more medals could have been won in the sport if only the team had enjoyed a little bit of motivation from the appropriate authorities.
Sadly, the team was left on its fate with the lifters fending for themselves and only largely riding on the sole support of its hardworking chairman, Cliff Johnson Aboagye.
The Melbourne performance leads the clarion cry of help and attention the sport badly needs and deserve.
The nation obviously stands the chance of increasing her medal haul at any international competition if the lifters are well motivated to participate in such events.
In assessing the general output of the lifters, one is tempted to believe that Ghana could have even registered more medals at the event but failed to do so partly due to sheer luck coupled with some factors. Having registered three medals in Abuja, expectation was that the Ghanaian (Abosti) who is based in South Africa for the past years could only manage a disappointing eighth position in the 94 kilogram category. Enquiries made by the GNA Sports reveals that Abotsi has not enjoyed adequate training as he arrived in the country some few weeks before the team departed to Melbourne and therefore could not improve upon his performance.
Though a prospect like Bernard Fetrie could not pick a medal, he remains a future prospect because he has been exposed to the international scene and stands the chance of putting up a more improved performance in the future and largely so because he has gained a scholarship in Australia to train with a high class gym.
It would however be interesting to note that the lifters prepared under difficult conditions at the Kaneshie Sports Complex with little or no motivational package for the team, not to talk of other essentials items needed to maximize their performances.
They trained with just a single barbell, using a rickety platform, which even possess much risk to the lifter as any part of the "naked" wooden platform could harm the lifter.
Not even a tin of energy drink per day was made available for the lifters after each training session, let alone speak of the vitamin supplements and rich diets required by a lifter to remain in good health for a golden delivery.
It on this note that the efforts of Mr Aboagye and the General Secretary must be highly commended more especially with the Chairman committing his personal resources to the training programmes of the lifters, and was on record to have once used his car as a guarantee to secure a loan from the Unique Trust Financial Service to aid the team during the long camping. Coupled with that is the expenses incurred by accommodating and feeding the gold medallist in the sport, Majetie Fetrie for the past months in the absence of an employment. The Unique Trust loan is yet to be settled by the Chairman thus denying him access to his car for the past five to six months. Nevertheless Mr Aboagye is unperturbed by the situation and has indicated his desire to go all out to achieve more laurels at the Africa and World Championships later in the year.
These among other reasons calls for a second look at the sport to find ways of developing and promoting the sport in the country as we celebrate the success chalked by the team at the Games. For obvious reasons, the lifters need some level of financial injection to enable them to continue to win more laurels for the nation. Association at least three barbells for the lifters to have effective and efficient training.
This will also afford the Association the opportunity to unearth more talents for the nation in the sport, because the present success being enjoyed might not last forever if individuals are not identified and developed to take over from the likes of Majeti and Abotsi.
The present joy rather presents the nation with a golden opportunity to become a power house in weightlifting to be in a better frame to rub shoulders with such African giants like Egypt, Nigeria, Uganda, South Africa and the world greats of Turkey, China and Bulgaria among others.
These countries have over the past years dominated in the sport because of the attention they have accorded it.
This however cannot be achieved if the entire sport is left at the tiny shoulders of the Chairman, therefore its time for all to shift attention to the sport and help in diverse ways towards its development and promotion.
This is the more reason why the National Sports Council (NSC) and the Ministry of Education and Sports must take up the development of infrastructure of the sport to help the lifters undergo adequate training as well as unearth more talents for future competitions. It therefore came as refreshing news when the newly appointed Chief Executive Officer of the National Sports Council, (NSC) Prince Oduro Mensah indicated his desire to select sporting disciplines where the nation possess comparative advantage for special attention.
It is about time for the Council and the sector ministry to join hands with the association to help push the sport forward.
The provision of infrastructure should be given a top most priority while efforts are made to secure corporate support for the lifters in their preparations for future events as the Association sets its sight on the impending African Weightlifting Championship and the World Championship in Morocco and the Dominican Republic in October and November respectively as well as the All Africa Games in Algeria next year.
Even though the nation seems to have chalked modest success in the past, we could be laughing at the wrong sides of our mouth if investments are not made in the sport. It should be noted that at these events, the nation would be facing stiffer opposition and this will require an extra effort to excel at these events.
There is no doubt that the sport henceforth will carry expectations of Ghanaians in any international event and for them to deliver, the necessary structures must be made available.
One should not only look at the medals the sport will bring to the nation but the social and economic impact on especially the youth. At the last weightlifting championship in Qatar, gold, silver and bronze medalists received 10,000, 5,000 and 3,000 dollars respectively from the Federation aside from what their respective nations provided them.
Also developing the sport is a sure bet for reduction of crime and unemployment and it is time it is given the needed attention. 02 April 06