At the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games, Eileen Cikamatana won weightlifting gold for Fiji. Four years later in Birmingham she repeated the achievement, this time for Australia.
Cikamatana represented her adopted country with a bang in Birmingham, setting new Commonwealth Games records in the women’s 87kg on Wednesday morning (AEST) and becoming the first woman to win gold medals for two different nations.
The 22-year-old made light work of her competition with incredibly heavy lifts. That included a Games-record snatch of 110kg and a second clean-and-jerk lift of 137kg, which was also a Games record.
Her total at that point was an overall Games record in the event and enough to win her the gold medal. But she went on to top that performance with a third clean and jerk of 145kg to bring her combined total to 255kg.
“I don’t know how to describe it … I can’t fit it into words,” Cikamatana told AAP afterwards. “I think it’s floating somewhere. I will need to grab it then I will let you know.”
Cikamatana grew up in a small village in Fiji, the country of her birth. As a child she helped her father carry feed for the pigs he was looking after, and would lift 50kg sacks of meal mix and gas cylinders off and onto his truck.
She started weightlifting on the suggestion of a school teacher, and realised she also had the mental fortitude to match her physical strength.
“In training, it’s your mind that takes over the body, and you really need to focus because you’re lifting weights,” she told the ABC last week. “You really need to get into that relationship with you and the bar. Because weights are dead weight, they don’t have feelings, but you have feelings.”
Cikamatana’s rise as a teenager was swift, and at 15 she moved to New Caledonia to train with other top Pacific athletes. At 18, she burst onto the international scene with gold for Fiji in the 90kg. But the following year, after a dispute with Fiji’s weightlifting governing body over where she should train, she switched allegiances to Australia.
Visa red tape meant she wasn’t able to represent her new country at the Tokyo Olympics, but the signs in Birmingham point to good things for Australia at Paris 2024.
“If I miss out on this one, we can always go to the next one, which is 2024, and that’s our main goal,” she told the ABC. “This has been the greatest opportunity I’ve ever had, and to me it’s a dream come true,” she said. “To be representing Australia in green and gold is just beyond my imagination.”