Papua New Guinea weightlifters Dika Toua and Morea Baru were hailed best athletes of the Northern Marianas Pacific Mini Games 2022 during the closing ceremonies last Saturday at the Oleai track & field.
Toua topped the women’s 49-kg class with three gold medals in the snatch, clean & jerk, and overall and in the process took home her 13th overall Oceania Weightlifting Championships gold medal.
Just like when she received the news of the International Weightlifting Association Hall of Fame enshrinement, the 38-year-old teared up after learning that she won the best athlete award.
“I was surprised again. I keep getting surprised. It’s been a blessing and I’m very grateful to everyone who contributed toward my achievements.”
Among those she thanked was her coach Paul Coffa, his wife Lilly, and the Coffa family.
“I’ve been with them since 2022 and this means so much to me. The credit goes to him and to my family for the support they’ve always given me. [Before when] I was young and single then I had my children they’re still behind me and they’ve always supported me,” said the mother of two.
Toua said being a world-class weightlifter has had its share of challenges.
“It’s a lot of sacrifices that I’ve put in by leaving my two kids behind but I have my in-laws, my parents, my siblings to take care of them while I do my training. It’s a contribution, like I said, of a lot of people and that includes my government, my Olympic committee, and my federation—PNG Weightlifting Federation—my sponsors and all the other corporate sponsors and everybody in Papua New Guinea that contributed toward my success. And I’m really grateful to the Lord above for everything he’s done to my life because I believe without Him I wouldn’t be this successful,” she said.
Baru, for his part, got the nod for best male athlete of the 2022 Games after winning three gold medals and the Oceania Weightlifting Championships gold medal in the 61-kg class.
Like Toua, the 32-year-old Olympian was also caught by surprise with the best athlete of the Games honor.
“Oh, I was really surprised because I thought they’re gonna announce another name. But when I heard my name I was like what! I was really shocked.”
Baru is dedicating the best athlete award to all the PNG athletes and the officials who took part in this Games.
PNG chef de mission Kila Dick commended Toua and Baru for being named best athletes of the Games.
“It’s a big achievement for Dika and Morea to win the best athlete honors. It means all the hard work and commitment they put in the sport paid off. It’s a great honor for them to win those awards and I’m grateful and honored to be part of their team.”
PNG tops medal tally
Meanwhile, PNG earned the most gold medals of the Games after finishing with 33 gold, 28 silver, and 19 bronze medals.
The Melanesian country got 23 gold medals from athletics, six from weightlifting (three each from Toua and Baru), and four from tennis, where they swept all women’s events (singles, doubles, and team) plus the mixed doubles on the strength of the Apisah family (Abigail, Violet, and Patricia) and Davis Cup player Matthew Stubbings.
Coming in second in the medal tally is Tahiti with 22 gold, 15 silver, and 21 bronze medals, while host the Northern Marianas had its best ever performance in the Games—Pacific Games or Mini Games—with 16 gold, 13 silver, and nine bronze medals.
Dick said it’s a big achievement for their delegation to win the most medals in the Games
“Our athletics team goes overseas and they train overseas. They go to the U.S. and there’s scholarship programs there for all of our athletics athletes and that’s the reason why they’re always on top of their performances.”
Dick also praised Toua, Baru, and the entire athletics team.
“Our weightlifters go down to Australia for their training and that gives them the strength, the attitude, the commitment, and the dedication that they have to come to that level,” he said.
Dick also took the opportunity to thank the Pacific Mini Games Organizing Committee for a well hosted 11th staging of the quadrennial event.
“We’re satisfied with all the arrangements—the accommodations, transport, the venues, the food. It’s been outstanding and I’m satisfied with all the arrangements made by the host organizing committee,” he said.