(ATR) Born in Fiji, now an Australian citizen, Eileen Cikamatana doesn’t know yet if she will be able to compete for a medal at the Tokyo Olympics.
Eileen Cikamatana set a new World Junior record in October 2019 in Lima, Peru.
Despite her number-one ranking in Australia, Cikamatana, 21, might just fall short of meeting the qualification standards for Tokyo. Lifters aiming for the Olympics must compete in three periods of qualifications in the run up to the Games. Cikamatana, who lifts in the 87kg Olympic category, missed competing in Period 1.
Cikamatana and her legendary coach, Paul Coffa, hope there’s still a chance for Tokyo. They are training as if they are headed to Japan..
Coffa estimates he has driven more than 17,000 km taking Cikamatana to and from training in the past year. He says she’s destined for Olympic gold.
“The best I’ve ever seen,” he says. He spotted Cikamatana five years ago when she took part in his Oceania Weightlifting Institute based in Noumea. The pandemic ended the institute in New Caledonia, forcing Cikamatana to uproot 2,000 miles away to Australia.
“Eileen was sent to me in 2015, one of the students recruited through my Pacific Islands School Development program for an introductory camp. When I saw her, straight away I knew she was going to be something special,” recalled the coach.
“Just the way she approached the bar, the motivation she had, the commitment, she was the first one at training …. as soon as two or three o’clock came she was there,” he says.
Cikamatana celebrates first world cup win as Australian lifter.
A gold medal at the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast was the first sign that Cikamatana was an elite lifter.
“I have never seen a talent like her – she is the Serena Williams of weightlifting,” says the coach.
Cikamatana’s coach says he’s been driving 240 km a day to shuttle her to training in Victoria. By the end of February, he hopes to open a small gym closer to Cikamatana’s home. The equipment is being transported by ship from the shuttered institute in New Caledonia.
Regardless of what decisions are made in the weeks ahead about Olympic qualifying, Cikamatana says she has her sights beyond the postponed Tokyo Olympics.
“Don’t worry, Paul.
“Regardless of what happens this year in Tokyo, I will win the gold medal at the Commonwealth Games in 2022 and the next Olympics in 2024,” she pledges to Coffa as a cap to his long career.
“If I don’t compete, I don’t compete,” she says about Tokyo.
“She has the whole world in front of her,” Coffa says about the young athlete who just a few years ago made her first lifts as a teenager in a tin shed in Fiji.
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