Weightlifter takes inspiration from sick husband

DETERMINED: Erika Ropati-Frost speaks to the media in Glasgow on Sunday.
DETERMINED: Erika Ropati-Frost speaks to the media in Glasgow on Sunday.

Eventually the moment overwhelmed Erika Ropati-Frost. She had shown remarkable strength on Sunday in talking about the challenges she and her husband, Tuvale, had faced in the lead up to the Commonwealth Games, which begin in Glasgow this week. 

"Sorry," she says, taking a moment before continuing her story. Tuvale, who initially thought he had a common cold, was diagnosed with cancer in April and has just finished seven weeks of intensive chemotherapy and radiation treatment to fight the tumour in his sinus cavity. 

The effect on the big, strong Samoan man has been dramatic, with his weight dropping from 137 kilograms to 112 kilograms, as he, with Ropati-Frost by his side, spent more and more time in hospital.

"From what they told me it was one of the toughest treatments that a cancer patient to go through," she said. 

"He was always my rock and to have those roles reversed and to see him in probably in one of the weakest stages in his life, it was definitely really hard."

Ropati-Frost says seeing Tuvale's weakened body - he had endured 35 days of radiation treatment - made it extremely hard leaving her husband of a year to travel to Glasgow, where she will be competing in the 53kg division.

"I remember the day I left we both just broke down and I didn't want to leave ... and when they made the call for us to board to leave Brisbane it was just extremely emotional for me," she said.

"I have good teammates who are really supportive and everyone's always asking about how he's going. He has said that he's on the mend, (that) he is feeling better from the day that I left.

"The doctors have said it's only going to get easier. He's gone through the hard part so it's time for me to do the had part of weightlifting. 

"Under this sort of pressure and having something really motivating to do well I think he's going to give me the emotional strength to really do well at these Games and I'm hoping that I can make him proud at the moment."

Ropati-Frost has competed in the past two Games in the 48kg division, claiming bronze in Melbourne in 2006, but has now moved up to the 53kg. She believes she is among a group of contenders that could win a medal.

"There's some really strong girls but with the weights that I'm hoping i can do, and I believe that I'm capable of doing, I might be able to get onto that podium," Ropati-Frost says,

"But at the same time my teammate Socheata (Be), we're on the same level, she's strong in the snatch, I'm strong in the clean and jerk so out of the two of us it really depends on who can pull it out on the day.

"There's quite a few of us who might be able to sneak in for bronze, maybe a silver medal. It depends on what happens on the day but I can only have my fingers crossed and hopefully my hard work and preparation is going to give me some good results."

The Age