The Africa Oceania Olympic Qualifier was held in Hammemet, Tunisia from April 02-04, 2021 despite many concerns over the COVID-19 epidemic. In effect were the Sanitary protocols and teams being isolated from the public during their stay, training and competition. Over the course of the three days of competition, wrestlers who finished in the top two categories in the respective weight divisions qualified their nations for the Tokyo Olympic Games.
Among the top finishers in the Qualifier, the host nation Tunisia secured the most Olympic places with 10 across the Greco Roman as well as Men and Women Freestyle events. Algeria qualified eight weight categories, while Egypt qualified seven. Algeria led the way by capturing four quotas while Egypt, Tunisia and Guinea-Bissau claimed two each. Senegal and Nigeria also registered their names by claiming a berth each for the Tokyo Olympics.
Among the teams that were present from the Oceania included Australia, American Samoa, FSM, Guam and Palau. The only Oceania country to qualify for the Olympic Games was Rckaela Acquino of Guam who placed second overall in the finals after wrestling a tough match and losing to Cameroon’s Joseph Tiako in the 53kg female division by a technical superiority 10-0.
Palau sent two wrestlers, Cristian Etpison Nicolescu who competed against Aime Rakotaniana of Madagascar in the mens freestyle 65 kg but lost in a decisive match by 11-0. Overall, Cristian ranked 11th in his weight divison. The other athlete from Palau included Guy Delumeau Jr., who competed against Ishak Boukhors of Algeria in the Mens 74kg freestyle division. This was a tough match for Guy as well as Boukhors dominated the match was able to place 10th overall in ranking.
American Samoa had six wrestlers that came to compete, but it was Eilias Lauofo Vaoifi who wrestled exceptionally well during his first match against Janudre Riel of South Africa and won the match 9-4. He went on to wrestle Amr Hussen of Egypt, but lost 10-0 by technical superiority. Vaoifi went on to wrestle Ogbonna John of Nigeria but lost, 6-2. Vaoifi ranked 5th overall.
Another great match was Junjun Asebias (FSM) who competed against Josh Failauga (American Samoa) in the mens freestyle 57kg weight division. Asebias dominated the match with a 14-1 win. He went on to wrestle Abdelhak Kherbache (Algeria) for the bronze match and was in the lead in the first period. Asebias wrestled very well but came out short of the match losing to Algeria by 15-8. Asebias later wrestled Kossai Ajimi (Tunisia) but lost 2-0. Overall, he was able to rank 5th overall.
According to Coach John Tarkong Jr., the African Countries came prepared and they were “smoking hot”. Last year, we had 2 athletes and Tarkong who went to Morocco and took part in the training camp for 2 weeks prior to the qualifiers and this gave us the opportunity to train with them. Unfortunately, due to the COVID-19 epidemic the qualifiers were cancelled and we returned home. This year it was a bit different, after speaking with the Regional Development Officer for Africa, many of the African countries were able to train hard and take part in the training camps over in the Ivory Coast and this really helped their game here this week. I wish we could have done the same thing, but as we all know, it’s a bit different in our part of the Oceania region. We know the process takes years and by this I mean considerable financial investment and relentless determination. As of now, I believe a majority of the places available for the athletes in the 2021 Olympic Games have already been met through the qualification process as the Asian OG Qualifiers were also underway. As for the rest of us, due to the COVID 19, training came to a halt or interrupted due to self-isolation or no training at all. I believe if we competed as we had trained last year, it would have been better for us. Anyway, we have our last final qualifier in Sofia, Bulgaria next month, but that’s another story. Belau Wrestling Federation (BWF) would like to thank PNOC and our sponsors, especially WCTC for their continued support.