Lifter brings rare glory for Fiji

Sudipta Ananda . Gold Coast | Published: 00:05, Apr 10,2018


Eileen Cikamatana of Fiji celebrates after winning gold medal in women’s 90kg weightlifting final of the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast, Australia on Monday. — AFP photo

Fiji might not have much of an expectation in the ongoing Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast but Cikamatana, an 18-year-old weightlifter, on Monday ensured the tinny Pacific nation did not return empty handed from its neighbouring country.
Cikamatana brought first gold for the country in 16 years in women’s 90-kg weight category of weightlifting, only the fourth gold medal for her country in the history of meet that triggered a jubilant celebration.
The Island of the South Pacific Ocean last managed gold medal in 2002 Manchester Commonwealth Games in Judu through Nacanieli Qerewaqa.
The medal meant a lot for a country with the population of only nine-million because Commonwealth suspended its membership twice in the last three decades.
They missed 1990 Commonwealth Games held in New Zeeland’s Auckland while they were not allowed in the Victoria Commonwealth Games four years later.
After their ban was lifted, Fiji took part in the next three editions of the Games in 1998, 2002 and 2006 before being handed another suspension due to a military coup, which left the nation out of the 2010 Delhi Commonwealth Games.
Fiji was given a chance to compete in the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games under special consideration and they took part in the Games to win a bronze medal with just four-month preparation.
‘This is my first Commonwealth Games and I worked hard for this for many years,’ Cikamatana told New Age on Monday.
‘Now I’m feeling like I am on top of the world.’
Cikamatana became emotional during the medal giving ceremony.
‘Winning a gold medal for Fiji after a gap of 16 years meant a lot for me which was why I broke down in tears at the podium when listing the national anthem.’
Cikamatana started playing weightlifting when she was just 14-year old with the help of her uncle Joe Vueti.
At 16 she left Fiji for New Caledonia, a French territory, for better training under Paul Coffa.
‘I was living in New Caledonia for the last two years under Paul but my uncle [Vueti] was my mentor and he brought into this sport,’ she said.
Vueti also couldn’t hide his emotion after the success of his niece as Cikamatana’s success brought a rare sporting glory for Fiji.
‘You see how the people of Fiji are enjoying with it. In the last week we had a major flood in Fiji and it almost destroyed maybe 30 to 40 thousand homes and made the thousands of people homeless,’ he said.
‘So this gold medal is dedicated for the victims of the flood and maybe this gold medal will put smiles on their faces.’
For Vueti, Cikamatana’s success was more striking since rugby is Fiji’s most popular sport.
‘For us, we are extra ordinary in the rugby and we are one of top teams but winning gold in another sport in the Commonwealth Games it is bigger,’ he said. 

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