By PATRICIA KEAMO
PACIFIC Games and Oceania champion Dika Toua has created history after being the first female weightlifter in the region to be inducted in the International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) Hall of Fame.
The Papua New Guinean, alongside her younger sister, Thelma, competed in the 49kg division and went on to win three gold in the Northern Marianas Pacific Mini Games yesterday.
Fellow weightlifter Morea Baru also won three gold in the 61kg division to help PNG sit atop the medal tally with seven gold, two silver and one bronze in Saipan.
Toua’s induction made her the second person in Oceania behind Australian weightlifter Sam Coffa (2009).
“I’m feeling overwhelmed as one of the first women to be inducted into the Hall of Fame,” said the Hanuabada villager, who turns 38 on Thursday.
“It was a special moment because I didn’t expect it, it came to me as a shock and it was very emotional for me.
“I thank the Lord because I’ve done this for more than 20 years and to be recognised is something special.
“I’ve been asked when I’d retire, but I still feel like I have a lot in me I can go as far as 2024 and I’ll see from there.
“But what’s next for me is the Pacific Games in the Solomon Islands and then preparations for the 2024 Olympic Games.
“With this performance I know what I can do and what I’m capable of doing next in my competitions.
“I’d like to thank coach Paul Coffa and his wife for their time and effort put into developing me.
“Without him, I don’t think I’ll still be continuing.
“He provides support, enthusiasm, courage and motivation.”
Toua also acknowledged the PNG Olympic Committee, PNG Weightlifting Federation and major sponsor Trukai Industries Limited for their continued support to the sport.
Meanwhile, Coffa said he was proud of Toua’s achievements and was confident that she would qualify for the 2024 Olympic Games.
“She is getting better and better with age, she is just amazing,” he said.
“I have been informed by the IWF that next Saturday, during the congress in Albania, she will be inducted into the Hall of Fame.
“Only Sam Coffa, who spent 60 years in the sport has been inducted into the Hall of Fame from Oceania, she is the second person.
“But as an athlete at her age, it’s just an amazing thing that has happened to her. “I have no doubt that she will be qualifying for the sixth time to the 2024 Olympics in Paris, France.
“I just believe she has the ability to qualify on her own, she’s in the top-10 in the world and that would be at the age of 39 next year.
“It’s a well-deserved reward from the IWF, she’s the only weightlifter to appear in five Olympic Games.
“Possibly a sixth coming up.
“That would make her the only athlete in the world to compete in the Olympic Games six times,” said Coffa.
By PATRICIA KEAMO