Francois Etoundi backflips in celebration after a successful snatch lift in the men’s 77kg weightlifting final at the 2018 Commonwealth Games. (ABC News: James Maasdorp)
Australia’s Francois Etoundi has captivated the crowd in an exemplary display of weightlifting, claiming Commonwealth bronze on his final clean and jerk despite already injuring his shoulder.
Etoundi finished behind Indian gold medallist Satish Kumar Sivalingam and England’s Jack Oliver in the men’s 77kg division, in a display that will long be remembered for his showmanship and fighting through agony to reach the podium.
He enjoyed a clean run through the snatch and completed his first clean-and-jerk, but his fifth lift of the morning saw him run into trouble.
A click in his shoulder told him he had injured himself, but he came back from the aborted lift to defy the pain barrier and complete his sixth and final lift, collapsing to the floor in obvious distress.
A screen was run across the platform as medical staff attended to him, but he was helped up to his feet and escorted off, with the lift successfully completed — ultimately earning him bronze.
“The final lift was very painful and when I finished the lift, I had the bar above my head and was waiting for the jury to put the bar down, because it was really painful,” he said.
“[During the unsuccessful penultimate lift] when I put the bar down, I just feel it click in my shoulder, because I had a pain there already. Then it was too painful.
“But I’m glad I’d done the last weight, I tried to push myself, I pushed myself to get the bronze.”
Francois Etoundi felt a click in his shoulder and fell to a heap on the floor during the competition. (AAP: Tracey Nearmy)
Having warmed the crowd up with an incredible backflip celebration during the snatch lifts, Etoundi had made a passionate statement to his adopted country, and pulling out — regardless of his aching shoulder — was not an option.
He said injuries prior to competition saw him only start serious training about four days out from the Commonwealth Games.
“I said to myself this is my home crowd … I didn’t want to disappoint,” he said.
“I’ve been training here, I’ve been preparing for this Commonwealth Games for the past year-and-a-half.
“I knew if I didn’t get this [injury], I would get the gold medal. All this work I’ve done … I started training about four days ago. Just four days ago, because I couldn’t do pull, I couldn’t do snatch, I couldn’t do nothing.
“I wanted to go through to 175 [kg], to try and fight. I’ve done it before, in Glasgow. My coach was a little bit scared, but then I said to him ‘OK, let’s go, if you can get me to the podium, I just want to get there’.
“Here, I start shaking. But when you have experience, and know yourself, anything can be possible.”
‘Bigger man’ Etoundi wants to shake hands with man he fought in Glasgow
The Cameroon-born Etoundi has won Commonwealth bronze before, but the recriminations around an athletes village scuffle at Glasgow 2014 hugely soured his achievement.
Ever the showman, Francios Etoundi put on a good show on his way to a bronze medal. (AAP: Tracey Nearmy)
He was ordered to compensate Welsh weightlifter Gareth Evans $730 after headbutting him, leaving the Welshman with a broken nose.
The Australian had his Glasgow accreditation revoked and was ordered to return home.
Etoundi insists what happened in Glasgow was self-defence, but he has put the matter behind him as he tries to move on.
And moving on, it seems, involves finding Evans in the Gold Coast athletes village and shaking hands.
“What happened in Glasgow, I just put behind my back. People didn’t believe [me]. People who knew me, they believed in me,” Etoundi said.
James Maasdorp tweet: ‘A good clean-and-jerk for Francois Etoundi at 169kg, but comes up with a shoulder injury and in some distress. Helped off the stage to a big cheer.’
“In life, when the people never come across you to have a conversation with you, they don’t know who you are. But the people who know you [understand you].
“What happened in Glasgow, it happened in the past, it was self-defence, like I keep telling. I put that behind my back and then I move forward.
“[Evans] made me learn something because every day when you’re growing up as a man, you learn from any mistake.
“I said to my team captain yesterday … when I finish competing, I’m going to see the guy, and then I’m going to shake his hand. To say ok, let’s forget the past.
“I don’t know if he’s already forgot, for me, I already forget. For me It’s just about fair play, to be the bigger man.
“I saw him [once or twice], I saw him at competition, the Commonwealth Championships, but we never spoke. Whenever I saw him I preferred to stay away because I don’t want no trouble.
“But this is my home and everything, so I said to myself ‘I want to be fair’, so I want to make him feel welcome and say to him ‘look, let’s forget about the past and move forward’.”
Etoundi will have surgery on his shoulder after the conclusion of the Commonwealth Games.