International Weightlifting Federation President Tamás Aján (centre, right) attended the Pacific Games here in Port Moresby along with other dignitaries ©IWF

International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) President Tamás Aján has warned the sport he leads it cannot afford to sit back and assume that it will always be part of the Olympic Games, despite the fact that at Tokyo 2020 it will be celebrating 100 continuous years on the programme. 

Speaking here at the Pacific Games, where the weightlifting competition took place across four intense days from Sunday (July 4) to Wednesday (July 8), Aján admitted the IWF must work tirelessly to maintain weightlifting’s place at the world’s biggest sporting showpiece.

Weightlifting has been contested at every Summer Olympic Games since 1920, as well as twice before then.

It debuted at the 1896 Games in Athens and was also an event at the 1904 edition in St. Louis.

"I know very well we have to work 24 hours a day and 365 days," said Aján, a 76-year-old Hungarian, who has been President of the IWF since 2000. 

"Weightlifting is a core sport but we have to defend ourselves and I hope weightlifting will be on the Olympic Games 2024 [sports programme] and [that] for the other Olympic Games also."

Weightlifting has been contested at every Summer Olympic Games since 1920
Weightlifting has been contested at every Summer Olympic Games since 1920 ©Getty Images

Aján hailed the meteoric rise of weightlifting in the Pacific, pinpointing  the awarding of the 2000 Olympic Games to Sydney in September 1993 as the starting point.

As the IWF’s secretary general at the time, Aján revealed he had made it his goal to improve the standard of weightlifting in the Pacific area ahead of the Games in Australia.

He paid tribute to the efforts of Paul Coffa, the Commonwealth Weightlifting Federation secretary general, who quit his role as Australia’s national weightlifting coach in 1994 to take up the equivalent position with Nauru.

Coffa and his wife Lilly, who currently sits as an Oceania Weightlifting Federation (OWF) Jury President, moved to Nauru, where they set up a weightlifting academy.

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Paul Coffa, centre, has been the driving force behind the raise of weightlifting in the Pacific region, according to IWF President Tamás Aján ©OWF

“Nauru is a small country, an island, and therefore he [Coffa] started to work there and after a certain time he was dealing not only with the Nauru youngsters, but also he invited [from] time to time competitors from other islands and he was teaching a lot of other competitors," said Aján.  

“And this was the way it [weightlifting] started to growing in the Pacific area.

“He had organised a lot of competitions and basically he devotes his life to weightlifting.”

A further indication of the sport's growth in the Pacific region was the announcement earlier this week that Papua New Guinea will host the 2016 Commonwealth Weightlifting Championships. 

Papua New Guinea Weightlifting Federation vice-president Frank Robby praised the work of the OWF, admitting the Port Moresby 2015 weightlifting event would not have been possible without the contribution of Coffa.

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