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Friday 11 September 2015 | Published in Regional


APIA – Young Samoan weightlifter Junior Falaniko is a mighty proud young man.

And he has every reason to be proud about representing his country during this week’s Commonwealth Youth Games.

Falaniko is not the usual youngster who had been nurtured for years in the culture of sport. Eight months ago, Falaniko was selling i‘e lavalava on the streets of Apia.

That’s where former champion weightlifter, Niusila Opeloge, spotted him and asked him if he wanted to try out the sport.

He did and he liked it.

Falaniko saw it as an opportunity to help his family financially. Most importantly though, he saw the chance to represent Samoa.

This week, Falaniko realised his dream when he made his international debut in the men’s 69kgs division.

“It’s my first time on the stage and this is just the beginning for me,” said the 16-year-old from Vaivase Uta.

“I tried my best and this is just the beginning of developing my career for the future – because if its not here I’ll be back on the streets.”

And how did he take competing against the best in the Commonwealth?

“Numbed at the moment,” he said with a smile. “Overall I feel excited and overwhelmed.”

Falaniko is the fifth child of eleven children to his parents Luatasi and Dicky Autagavaia.

In 2012, he dropped out of school to help his parents with the i‘e lavalava business.

He is a former student of St. Joseph’s College.

Falaniko did not make it on the medal stage.

But what the competition has done to him is that it has made him even more determined to get better.