By Daniel Kerwin, Port Moresby 2015 Games News Service
PORT MORESBY, July 7 – Lifting the weights on the bar in front of them is more than enough to worry about for most weightlifters. For Steven Kari (PNG) at these Pacific Games, he has also been tasked with lifting another weight – the weight of his whole nation.
With the PNG Power Dome packed to capacity for Tuesday night’s men’s 94kg weightlifting event – including Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Peter O’Neill – Kari took home two gold medals, causing the crowd to erupt into a frenzied celebration.
It was an effort that pleased everyone in attendance, except for one person – Kari himself. He wanted all three golds.
“I didn’t come here to win silver or bronze or anything else, I came here to win a gold medal. This is a one-track mind,” Kari said. “This is what I trained for. I have to give everything to win a gold medal – do or die.”
Kari had to settle for silver in the opening snatch event, his lift of 140kg putting him a full 10kg behind gold medallist Siaosi Leusio (SAM). Kari dropped his final two attempts, which both came at 150kg.
“I was pissed off today after the snatch, I should have done better,” Kari said. “Someone took the gold medal away from me.”
Kari’s failure to win gold in the snatch left him restless as he was getting ready for the ensuing clean and jerk portion of the competition.
“I kept on walking in the back, and going up and down and up and down… I was really crazy,” Kari said. “I was trying to rip the bar, but too late – I already did the second attempt and the third attempt. I can’t even get a fourth attempt, we only have three attempts.”
In his first clean and jerk attempt, Kari pulled off a lift of 190kg, but Leusio immediately matched it. Leusio raised the standard to 193kg in his final attempt, but Kari still had two lifts in hand.
He put 204kg on the bar for his second attempt, determined to win the overall gold or nothing at all. He stuck it on his first attempt, and finally let his emotions flow.
He pumped his fists and then fell down to his knees and embraced the weights, kissing them multiple times before acknowledging the excited crowd, which was jumping up and down uncontrollably.
The energetic home crowd might have actually worked against Kari earlier in the night during his final two snatch attempts. He was noticeably distracted during his second attempt, after which the arena announcer had to instruct the fans to remain quiet during Kari’s third lift so that he could maintain his concentration.
“This is the first time to face a crowd like this, the crowd is not behaving, but I can’t stop how they’re going to cheer for me,” Kari said. “But I thank the crowd that they came here, and I gave them a gold medal, then their ticket is worth it to come and watch me.”
After having already clinched the gold medal, Kari made an attempt to set a new Commonwealth record by putting 211kg on the bar for his third lift. However, by that time he wasn’t able to raise the bar even as high as his chest.
“Next time I will break the record,” Kari said. “This was my aim today, to break the Commonwealth record in the Pacific Games, this is a big deal. And plus, the Prime Minister is here – breaking the record in front of the Prime Minister, he will be more than happy. I gave him a gold medal, I should have given him more, a record, today’s the day. But next time I’ll give him a better result.”
Kari is one of the biggest sports stars in Papua New Guinea, accepting his role as an inspirational national figure.
“If you want to do sports, then commit yourself in the sport,” Kari advised his younger fans. “Love it and commit yourself, and you’ll do whatever you want. If you’re dreaming to win a gold medal, then you have to get up and do it. It’s not keep on dreaming and dreaming – for what? If you’re dreaming, get up and follow your dream, work hard for it and win a gold medal.”
GNS dk/kd for more information visit www.portmoresby2015.com