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Thursday's Pacific Games: Men’s Powerlifters hoist up medal count

John Ioane and Justin Pedro

Honiara, SOLOMON ISLANDS — Team American Samoa registered two more medals to its medal tally on Thursday evening Nov. 30, 2023, compliments of powerlifters Justin Pedro and John Ioane.

The two powerlifters, both first timers in the international arena, were pitched against six other much more experienced powerlifters in the men’s 120+kg category.

But the experience they lacked was compensated by determination, passion, courage, grit and the will to succeed.


If one saw Justin Pedro for the first time, one would know that he is in his prime physically, as shown by his bulging well-toned muscles stretching the tight-fit T-shirts he wears when he is working out in the gym.

But instead of an intimidating presence, his demeanor is that of a gentle giant, bald-headed with a beard.

Justin is a local Pago boy born and raised in the Territory and lives in Tafuna. He is the son of Ben and Lisa Pedro and has a younger brother Johnny. 

A graduate of Samoana High School, he attended ASCC before moving to the mainland where he joined the US Army and was deployed a couple of times.

He is currently enlisted in the US Army Reserve and helps out the family at the MHJ Development Corporation.

Justin told Samoa News that he got very sick for a couple of days when he first arrived in the Solomons and lost a lot of weight. As a result, he missed a couple of days of training.

 “But I prayed hard, took my medication and took good care of myself,” the 39 year-old powerlifter shared. “It was amazing because it was by the grace of God that I was able to pull through. And competing against all those experienced and professional powerlifters and emerging with the silver medal is just awesome! Nothing is impossible with God!”

The silver medalist stated that when he gets back home, he will pursue the sport in earnest and see how far he can go.

 “Hopefully, I can get more opportunities to compete in more international competitions so I can keep on improving,” he said. “I also want to help others who are interested in the sport of powerlifting.”

He acknowledged with thanks the support of MHJ Development Corporation who funded their team uniforms and equipment.

 “I also want to thank my coaches, Peter and Sala for making sure that the Sau Ia Gym was available for us to train for free while we were preparing for the Games,” he said. “Also to my wife JC and my three kids for their love and support but most of all, glory be to God for all His blessings.”


Bronze medalist John Ioane is the other gentle giant who has advanced Team American Samoa’s placing on the medal tally.

In an exclusive interview, John revealed that he wasn’t really expecting a medal because of the many bigger and more experienced powerlifters who were competing.

 “I’m just the new kid on the block against the seasoned veterans,” John pointed out. “I just told myself to focus on what I can do and give it everything I’ve got. That way, I can walk away knowing that whatever result I got, I gave it my all and there would be no regrets.”

John is a devout member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and lives with his wife Lesmarie at his family home in Tafeta with his parents Suamalie and Faith Ioane.

He has two older siblings Myra and Marvin, and one younger brother Avalua.

He was introduced to lifting weights when he had to do it as part of football training when he was a Tafuna High School Warrior.

 “I was a big fan of the deadlift, which is when a weight is lifted from a resting position on the floor to an upright position, because it utilizes multiple muscle groups to strengthen the hips, thighs and back musculature,” he explained. “I like to test myself on the weights I could lift in this way and naturally, I got hooked on powerlifting.”

After high school, he attended ASCC then continued his tertiary education at the Eastern New Mexico University for one semester then embarked on a 2-year LDS mission in Mexico City before continuing his education at St. George Graduate Center in Utah.

However, he did not stay there for long as he wanted to help his family back home, so he returned to American Samoa and joined his dad at the Samoa Auto Parts in Nu’uuli where he is still employed.

The 29 year-old has been married to his wife Lesmarie for six years now and they are hoping to be blessed soon with their first child.

His wife who is also a powerlifter is currently with him as part of the powerlifting team.

 “When we return home, I’m going to try and stay healthy, get more experience, work on my mistakes and hopefully when the Oceania Championships or the next Pacific Games come around, I’ll come back stronger,” he said. “Like I said, I never really thought I would get a medal, but I tried my best and I’m thankful to win a medal. All glory to God!”

This Pacific Games report has been made possible by the generous sponsorship of Paramount Builders, Inc. and ASNOC.