Ray Santos bags 3 gold medals

PNG’s Dika Toua gets 13th gold, enshrined in hall of fame

Raymond Santos shows off his four gold medals in the 55-kg class of the joint Northern Marianas Pacific Mini Games 2022 and 2022 Oceania Weightlifting Championships yesterday at the Marianas High School Gymnasium. (MARK RABAGO)

Raymond Santos gave the CNMI three more gold medals as the weightlifting competition of the Northern Marianas Pacific Mini Games 2022 began yesterday at the Marianas High School Gymnasium.

Raymond Santos in action.

Competing in the 55-kg class, the 31-year-old Koblerville Elementary School special education teacher lifted 93 kg in his third and last try in the snatch to edge Philip Masi of the Solomon Islands, who had a snatch of 92 kg to take the silver. Third place and the bronze went to Papua New Guinea’s Eroni Vuratu with a best lift of 82 kg.

Dika Toua points to the heavens after her record-setting lift in the 49-kg class of the clean & jerk. (MARK RABAGO )

Then in the clean & jerk, Santos had a final lift of 115 kg—7 kg more than his closest rival—to claim his second gold medal. Masi was again the runner-up and took the silver with a lift of 108 kg, while Vuratu settled for the bronze with a lift of 105 kg.

For winning both lifts, Santos also got the overall gold—his third of the competition—with a total lift of 207 kg. Masi and Vuratu were second in total lift with 199 kg and 177 kg, respectively.

And since the Mini Games is also being used as the 2022 Oceana Weightlifting Championships, Santos also got a gold medal for that too.

“It’s an unreal feeling. We’ve been training so hard for this and I’m probably doing it for redemption from the last time I competed in the Oceania [Weightlifting Championships]. I didn’t make it as I didn’t make any lifts so this is redemption!”

From left, sisters Thelma and Dika Toua of Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands’ Rowena Donga during the medal awarding ceremony for the 49-kg class of the weightlifting competition of the Northern Marianas Pacific Mini Games 2022 yesterday at the Marianas High School Gymnasium. (MARK RABAGO)

Santos said he started training last year and began cutting weight last January. Asked to whom he’s dedicating the four gold medals to, he said, “My family, people who’ve been there for me and supporting me. This is for you guys. Representing the CNMI has always been my dream. We made it, we did it!”

In his third and final attempt in the clean & jerk, Santos tried to lift 125 kg. “I just wanted to push myself. I’ve done it before but haven’t done it in this weight class.”
He added that he practices at least two hours a day and used to compete at 67 kg, where he lifted his personal best of 136 kg.

Santos is also poised to get monetary incentives given by the CNMI government for gold medalists of the Games. As it stands, he’s looking at an $18,000 windfall, which he said he will deposit in the bank for his daughter’s future.

In the women’s 49-kg class, PNG’s Dika Toua won the division and in the process took home her 13th overall Oceania Weightlifting Championships gold medal.

The 38-year-old Olympian lifted 74 kg in the snatch and a new Oceania record 96 kg in the clean & jerk to win gold in both events. She added a third with the total weight of 170 kg and a forth with the Oceania medal.

“I’m on top of the world as I’m preparing for the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham. This has given me the confidence to work a little further on forward. I still have a lot in me which I will do at the Commonwealth Games. I’m looking forward for the competition and hopefully a gold medal for Papua New Guinea once again,” Toua told Saipan Tribune.

Coming in second to Toua in all three categories is her younger sister, Thelma, who had a snatch of 63 kg and a clean & jerk of 86 kg for a total of 141 kgs. Solomon Islands’ Rowena Donga settled for the bronze in all three categories—plus the Oceania tilt—with lifts of 62 kg (snatch), 81 kg (clean & jerk), and 137 kg (total).

During the medal presentation it was also announced that Dika Toua was enshrined into the International Weightlifting Federation’s hall of fame that brought her to tears.

The elder Toua started weightlifting at age of 10 and had her first competition at 13 years old. “I will be 38 in three days. Age doesn’t matter as long as you believe in yourself, you can do it.”

She added that she doesn’t mind making the CNMI her future home if given a choice.
“It’s a beautiful island if I were to have an option where to go I will choose the CNMI. It’s a beautiful little island.”

Toua also gave high marks to the CNMI’s hosting of the Games.

“The accommodations and transportation are well planned and well organized. We’re really privileged. This is the first time we’ve stayed in a hotel in the Pacific Games. You really set a standard. The venue is just in an international level and maybe you can hold a world championships here with this setup. It’s world class.

Thank you very much to the CNMI weightlifting federation and also the Mini Games Organizing Committee. You’ve been an incredible host to the other countries,” she said.

Mark Rabago | Associate Editor
Mark Rabago is the Associate Editor of Saipan Tribune. Contact him at Mark_Rabago@saipantribune.com

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