TOKYO (Reuters) – Andriantsitohaina brothers Eric and Tojonirina realised the first of their weightlifting dreams by competing together at the Tokyo Games and say they will now focus on their next target — helping younger athletes win Madagascar’s first Olympic medal.
The brothers, who make up a third of Madagascar’s six-strong athletic delegation in Tokyo, competed in the 61kg and 67kg events on Sunday, taking the stage wearing the red and black of their country’s flag, with matching knee pads bearing their names and flag.
Coached by their father Rakotomalala Maurice Andriantsitohaina, Eric, who stands 1.60m tall, and Tojonirina, who is 1.65m, have enjoyed the Games experience, posting photos on Instagram of them together in Tokyo, sitting on the Olympic rings.
Both athletes were way short of medal standards on Sunday but shared a fist bump and consoled each other.
“It’s great to be together here. When I fall, he picks me up, and when he falls, I pick him up. We push each other upwards, for the better,” said Eric, who at 30 is four years older than his brother.
“It was our dream from the very start, to compete at the Olympics together. We walked the whole path together and it feels amazing to have him by my side today.”
The Indian Ocean island nation, one of the world’s poorest countries, also sent a team of six athletes to Rio, and Eric, who carried Madagascar’s flag at the Games opening ceremony on Friday, said he wanted to help develop sport back home.
“Madagascar is a poor country, so when we started we had no platform, we were training on the ground. Now we have more opportunities, thanks to weightlifting,” he said at the Tokyo International Forum.
The brothers plan to open their own weightlifting club in Madagascar after they end their sporting careers.
“Now that we have achieved our dream of being here, we can move onto our next dream,” added Eric. “We want to provide opportunities in sports for future generations of Madagascar.
“The ultimate dream is to coach younger athletes and bring the country’s first medal home.”
(Writing by Ece Toksabay; Editing by Peter Rutherford)