Morea Baru (PNG) and Vaipava Nevo Ioane (SAM) were the two clear favorites entering the competition, a billing they more than lived up to with a nail-biting showdown for the three gold medals up for grabs.
“He’s a friend of mine, but when we come to the Games, we just leave that aside, and we just fight,” Ioane said.
Baru opened strong with a lift of 121kg to take gold in the snatch, and withstood Ioane’s gold medal lift of 156kg in the clean and jerk to win the overall gold with a total of 276kg. Ioane’s total score came to 271kg.
Ramoaka Brown (SOL) took all three bronzes, with a snatch of 95kg and a clean and jerk of 120kg for a total of 215kg.
Ioane’s silver medal snatch of 115kg left him with six kilograms to make up in the clean and jerk.
After Baru succeeded at 155kg on his first attempt but failed at 158kg on his final two lifts, Ioane had two remaining attempts to overtake the lead.
Ioane crumpled early during his first attempt at 162kg, but he lifted all the way to his chest in his second attempt, leaving him a single movement away from overall gold.
However, by that stage he was suffering from a hand cramp and could not raise the bar any further.
“It was a great competition between me and [Baru],” Ioane said. “You know, it was really hard for me to catch up because I was falling apart at the snatch and it was really hard for me to catch up on the clean and jerk.”
“So that’s why I jumped on 162kg, so I could win the total and the clean and jerk.”
Isi Scophil Kevau (PNG) placed fourth in each of the events with a snatch of 85kg and a clean and jerk of 110kg for a total of 195kg.
Igo Lohia (PNG) placed fifth overall [85kg snatch, 100kg clean and jerk, 185kg overall] and Manua Tuau (TUV) finished sixth [75kg snatch, 106kg clean and jerk, 181kg overall].
Although Baru and Ioane have competed against each other many times in the past, this was the first time that Baru came out on top.
At the 2014 Commonwealth games in Glasgow, Ioane beat Baru by a single kilogram for the bronze medal (271kg to 270kg).
“The last time he beat me by one kilogram, so I was trying to beat him by two kilograms or more,” Baru said. “It was a good battle. He’s very good, he’s a good athlete, good lifter.”
“I tried my best to beat him, and now I beat him, so I’m very happy.”
The victory was extra special for Baru since it came in front of his home crowd in his first Pacific Games appearance.
“It’s amazing. It’s a great pleasure to perform in front of my country and my family.”
“Thank you to all the Papua New Guineans supporting me inside and outside, watching on television,” said Baru.
“Also, my New Caledonia people who have supported me for two years – I’ve been staying there for training.”
Baru’s performance topped off a day in which the host country won six golds over four weightlifting events, with Thelma Mea Toua (PNG) sweeping all three golds in the women’s 48kg event and Dika Toua (PNG) earning clean and jerk gold in the women’s 53kg. [PacificGamesMedia]