Toua lifting the hearts of an island
Dika Toua of Papua New Guinea is assured of her own little piece of Olympic history. When she picked up the 48kg bar at the Sydney convention centre as a 16-year-old in 2000 she became the first woman ever to lift a weight at the Olympic Games. That lift was unsuccessful, but now a veteran of almost 24, she is preparing for her third Olympic Games and hoping for a medal to go with the history.
Toua took up weightlifting after going to the gym as a youngster with her aunt, herself a weightlifting champion who enjoyed some international success for Papua New Guinea in the 1990s. “I was very impressed when she came back from competitions with medals, and I wanted to do the same,” Toua said. At that time weightlifting in the Pacific Islands was becoming popular following Marcus Stephens’ triple gold medal haul at the 1998 Commonwealth Games for Nauru.
Carried the flag
Following a sixth place finish, having moved up to 53kg at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, where she also carried the flag for her country, Toua received an Olympic Solidarity scholarship and went to train at the Oceania Weightlifting Federation institute in Samoa, run by the renowned Australian coach
The year 2006 was special for Toua in more ways than one. She began it by winning a silver medal at the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne; for that and other services to sport she was then awarded, when still only 20, the prestigious MBE (Member of the British Empire); and the year finished on an
even higher note when in November her son Paul was born.
“Queen of Weightlifting”
Known throughout her home nation as the “Queen of Weightlifting” and once memorably described as “a broad, smiling splendour”, Toua claims she is not looking beyond a top-four finish in Beijing. “It is important for me to produce results for my country,” she says. “The Papua New Guinea Olympic
Committee has spent a lot of money on me throughout my career, and the only way for me to repay them is to achieve results on the international stage.”
For the Beijing Olympic Games, Olympic Solidarity has awarded a total of 1,088 scholarships to 166 National Olympic Committees in 21 individual Olympic sports.
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