Lifting to stardom

ONE must have a right mind and a willing heart to be successful in life.

Della Shaw-Elder has not left any stone unturned to be where she is in her life after having represented Fiji in weight-lifting.

Shaw-Elder was elected to the Commonwealth Weight-lifting Federation’s (CWF) executive committee during the CWF Electoral Congress held in Gold Coast, Australia last week.

But she had been turning heads before.

The former weight-lifter became the first Fijian to officiate at the 2018 Commonwealth Games which is not only an achievement for her and her family, but for the nation as a whole.

“It is a very long story. I started with weight-lifting in 1995, which was my first competition, and from there I never looked back and continued with the sport,” the Mokani, Bau, Tailevu woman said.

“The 2003 South Pacific Games was my last competition after which I started coaching the young athletes and then went to three Commonwealth Games and one Olympic Games.”

“I came into coaching because my coach died and I took up the responsibility to coach and from then I went into the technical official roles and all thanks to Paul Coffa.”

She married fitness trainer Henry Elder in 2014 and said it was a perfect match since both understood each other and the work loads.

“I was the vice-president of Weight-lifting Fiji that time and I was coaching and doing technical things. I was wearing different hats so I had to decide whether I wanted to coach or be the technical official while Weightlifting Fiji started investing in Jo Vueti.

“In 2010, I was a category two in refereeing and in 2016 I was given the category one where I would officiate at the World Championship, Commonwealth Games, and Olympic Games and it is the highest.”

Della was awarded with the jury level and jury is someone who makes the last decision and they can overturn the decisions once made by the referees.

She is the only female referee in the Pacific region who had the category one certificate.

“I went to the Asian Indoor Games last year and I got valuable experience which was my biggest international meet. I was the youngest in the competition and I had all the older officials who were at the age 50 and above.

“I was working with them and learning a lot and there were at times when I had to turn to the rule book, but these people had all the rules in their head,” she said.

“I am thankful to the International Weightlifting Federation for supporting me and recognising me after 10 years of refereeing.”

She coached the weight-lifters in the 2006 Commonwealth Games in Melbourne, Australia and then coached in the 2005 South Pacific Mini Games held in Palau followed by South Pacific Games in Cook Islands in 2009.

“I started with athletics where I was a sprinter and a hurdler and we went for a short training in Australia and then they introduced weight-lifting to the sprint training. We were looking for a gym for weight-lifting and then I ended up with Charman’s gym,” she said.

“I decided to join weight-lifting and today I have no regrets. My first competition was in the 1995 South Pacific Games — I won three gold medals. It was the first medal of the games. Weight-lifting has taken me a long way and I give the same experience to the new athletes and my husband and I told the athletes that the chances of winning gold medal in weight-lifting were high.”

Like the saying goes that behind every successful man there is a woman, but for Della her pillar of strength was her husband, Henry, who supported her and encouraged her to go the extra mile when she wanted to quit.

“There was a stage when I stopped weight-lifting from all levels and I wanted a break, but Henry asked me to come back and I will never forget that whatever things I have achieved was because of God,” she said.