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Nauruan lifter maintains legacy

Maximina Uepa of Nauru has joined the exclusive list of people from her nation to win a medal at the Commonwealth Games with a bronze medal in Birmingham.

Nauru has won a medal in the weightlifting competition at every Commonwealth Games they participated in since 1998.

20-year-old Uepa is a COVID survivor and dedicated her medal to the late Reanna Solomon, the Commonwealth gold medallist who died of COVID this year.

Uepa lifted a combined total of 215kg in the 76kg category, behind Nigeria’s Taiwo Liadi and Maya Laylor of Canada.

Her coach Saul Detenamo said Uepa’s Commonwealth Games journey suffered setbacks and they were pleased with what she had achieved for Nauru.

“She was among the first group of people to be taken for eight days of quarantine when COVID first broke out in Nauru, and when she went for home isolation I had to take the weights to her home, so she could train from home,” Mr Detenamo said.

Team Nauru official Sefanaia Takape with Nauru bronze medallist weightlifter Maximina Uepa during the 2022 Birmingham Commonwealth Games. Picture: Team Nauru Sefanaia Takape

“Most of her training was done in isolation. She trained mostly by herself, so preparations was challenging given the impacts of the pandemic.”

He said that Uepa had always been passionate about the sport, considering that she started weightlifting at the age of 11 years.

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She is the daughter of Nauru powerlifting champion Jezza Uepa who won the world’s strongest man competition that was held in Sweden in 2019, where he lifted a total of 972.5kgs in the super heavyweight +120 kg class.

According to Mr Detenamo, Uepa’s first international tournament was back in 2015 when she competed at the Commonwealth Youth Games at 13 years old.

Team Nauru Maximina Uepa competing during the 2022 Birmingham Commonwealth Games. Picture: Birmingham 2022

“Then that same year she went to the Pacific Games in Papua New Guinea and was unable to compete at the senior level because she was just 13 years old. So she competed in the Oceania youth and won her first gold medal,” he said.

Uepa then went on to win the 2016 Oceania Youth Championship in Fiji in 2017 at the age of 15.

She became the Oceania Youth and junior champion in 2018 at 16 years old and qualified for the Commonwealth Games at the Gold Coast where she was ranked at the top in 2019.

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