She has a name: Feagaiga Stowers wins Gold for Samoa

The Pacific is doing well at the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games with an impressive haul over the first seven days. People, however, have taken to social media to voice their unhappiness with the reporting of one particular triumph, seeing the heading and subsequent posts as denigrating of the Gold-winning weightlifter’s efforts. LAUMATA LAUANO weighs in on why people are hurt, and why their feelings are valid



Just as Kiwi weightlifter Laurel Hubbard has a name, so too does Feagaiga Stowers who, at 17 years old, went on to manage to lift 140kgs in the clean and jerk, earning a total of 253kg to win Gold in the women’s +90kg weightlifting.


However rather than the headline reading ‘Samoa’s 17-year-old Feagaiga Stowers wins weightlifting gold’, we were given ‘Samoan 17-year-old wins weightlifting gold after Kiwi Laurel Hubbard's withdrawal’.


Not only is Stowers not named, but in one headline her victory is belittled by the implication that she would not have won had Hubbard not withdrawn.


Poor wording? Definitely. Intentional? You’d be hard pressed not to believe so.


People on social media have called the headline ‘petty’, ‘disrespectful’ and in many instances ‘racist’.






And for good reason. There’s no reason for Feagaiga Stowers not to have been named in the headline. She won.


While it’s unfortunate what happened to the 40-year-old transgender weightlifter Hubbard, who withdrew injured, a quick look through the newsfeed will see an abundance of news items on her weightlifting journey and the tragedy that is her injury.


So why was it necessary to mention Hubbard, who lived as Gavin Hubbard until four years ago and competed at national level as a man, and whose very participation in the women’s division had been criticized as “unfair” by Stowers’ coach?


The simple answer is it wasn’t.


You would think a national news organisation would have the foresight to anticipate transphobic comments from a conservative, ruffled, Pacific community, in neglecting to name Stowers while indicating that the Samoan only won because Hubbard withdrew.


I won’t excuse the transphobic comments made. That’s a different issue altogether to be discussed - Pacific views on transgenderism is complex and not what we’re discussing here.


However as someone who took offense to Feagaiga Stowers not being acknowledged fairly, and having her victory denigrated in the same sentence, I can understand the frustrations.


Feagaiga Stowers, at the tender age of 17, managed to lift a total of 253kg to win gold at the 2018 Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast.


She has risen from her own tragedy, overcoming an abusive childhood, to take gold on the world stage.


Hers is also an inspirational story, one that doesn’t need to be shown up by someone else’s pain.


Feagaiga Stowers earned that medal and she has a name, use it.



With that aside, how is the rest of the Pacific faring at the Commonwealth Games? Very well, all things considered. It’s been quite a record Pacific Island medal haul and that was only on day seven.


Samoa leads the way with two gold, and two silver. Samoa’s Don Opeloge won silver on Saturday in the men's 85kg division at the weightlifting, with Lauititi Lui nabbing a silver for himself in the men’s +105kg.


Sanele Mao and of course Feagaiga Stowers hoisted their way to gold medals, with Mao lifting a combined 360kg to win the men's 105kg division and Stowers taking out the women’s +90kg weightlifting respectively.


Papua New Guinea’s Steven Kari won the Pacific’s first gold of the games with a record-breaking lift in the men’s 94kg. PNG also scored two silver medals from Dika Toua in the 53kg weightlifting competition after Morea Baru won the Pacific's first medal of the Commonwealth Games in the men’s 62kg weightlifting event.


Apolonia Vaivai got Fiji on the board with bronze in the women's 69kg category and thanks to Eileen Cikamatana in the women’s 90kg weightlifting Fiji also boasts a gold medal.


History makers, bronze medalists Taiki Paniani and Aidan Zittersteijn, won the first ever Commonwealth Games medal for the Cook Islands in the men’s pairs in lawn bowls.


Charisma Amoe-Tarrant nabbed a silver medal for Nauru when the 18-year-old lifted 243kg in the women's over 90kg division to finish second behind Stowers.


Solomon Islands Jenly Wini achieved bronze in the women’s 58kg.


And Vanuatu has one bronze, thanks to Friana Kwevira’s javelin throw.


You can follow RNZ Pacific for more Pacific coverage at the Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast.