11 April, 2018, 12:00 am
WEIGHT-LIFTER Eileen Cikamatana created a few firsts this week when she won the gold medal in the women’s 90kg event at the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast.
She is the first Fijian woman to win a gold medal for Fiji in the history of the Commonwealth Games.
She is also the first woman to win a gold medal for Fiji in weight-lifting.
She is also the first Fijian in 16 years to win a gold medal at the Commonwealth Games after judoka Nacanieli Takayawa in 2002.
The 18-year-old was a favourite for the event being the Commonwealth record holder — 111kg in the snatch and 143kg in the clean and jerk, which was set last year in Vanuatu.
At the Carrara Indoor Stadium on Monday, years of preparation came into fruition. The target was at hand. One lift, and the crowd yelled out “Fiji, Fiji, Fiji” around the arena.
It was pure ecstasy.
When the cameras zoomed in, this island girl was in tears, and breaking games tradition, she went around the dais hugging the silver and bronze medallists before accepting her gold medal.
As the crowd and about 1.5 billion viewers across the world watched, the Taviya villager from Ovalau, stepped from her champion platform, sat on the floor and clapped with cupped hands. A show of respect and gesture to say “thank you”.
“I am a Fijian and I am proud of my heritage, tradition and culture wherever I go. I sat down to cobo to acknowledge God, Paul Coffa, Weightlifting Fiji, my coach Joe Vueti, Government, the supporters, all those who supported me and especially my parents and my family.
“It was my gesture on behalf of my family to thank everyone for helping me.”
Her main competitor was New Zealand transgender Laurel Hubbard, 40, who got injured after the snatch round.
The gold medal win pumped up the adrenalin for Fijian athletes at the games.
Cikamatana recalled the last moments leading to the victory.
“I remembered saying ‘Lord it is now or never’ as I bent down to grip the bar,” she said after the win.
“I was at ease after that. I was calm and I knew that I had won the gold medal even before lifting the bar.
“The rest was emotional because a lot of things were going through my head. I thought of those at home during the cyclone.”
The celebration did not end with the flag raising ceremony after the noble banner blue hung proudly between New Zealand and Cameron after Kiwi Kate Fassina and Clementine Meukengi finished with silver and bronze medals.
Outside the complex, a Fijian group awaited the champion as she descended the stairs. It included her parents Sefanaia and Makitalena Cikamatana and Team Fiji athletes and officials.
“This is the proudest moment for a mother,” Makitalena said.
The parents travelled from Ovalau last week with the help of Weightlifting Fiji to surprise her daughter.
“We planned to accord a traditional ceremony to her because this is her first Commonwealth Games.
“I prepared a tabua (whale’s tooth) and masi to dress her after her event. I did not expect her to win because her field was strong, I thank the Lord for giving her the strength.”
There were tears of joy when champion daughter with the gold medal shining on her chest, met and hugged her mother.
The crowd watched in silence as tears from both streamed down their cheeks. It took some good five minutes — the hug of love, victory and commendation.
“I was the happiest mother at that moment. To see your daughter excel in what she chose to do is the best thing a mother wants.
“I wanted to hug her for a long time. I wanted to hold on to her forever again, because not only is she my darling, she has made her country proud.
“The victory erased all the difficulties we came through. She won because people like Atma Maharaj, Paul Coffa, Jo Vueti and Weightlifting Fiji members accepted her as one of their own. They are a family. The months and days of separation as she trained and competed overseas were always painful. We allowed her to chase her dream and she answered our prayers by making Fiji proud.
“At times of difficulties we have a poem in the family to boost her that read ‘When you feel like quitting, think about why you started.’ It was written by her sister and this was one of her motivations.
Cikamatana was draped in masi and a tabua hung with the gold medal as she was escorted from the complex.
Team Fiji members and Fijians serenaded her as our tiny nation took centre stage against the giants of the games at the huge Carrara Indoor Stadium at Gold Coast.
The gold medallist dedicated the win to Fiji which is suffering from the cyclone, and she will head home on Friday to a warm family welcome which is expected to start as she arrives in Nadi and right to her Taviya Village in Ovalau.
Fiji has now won four gold medals in the history of the Commonwealth Games.