PNG SWIMMER, WEIGHT LIFTER GRAB GOLD IN APIA

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By Wendy Katusele

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (The National, Aug. 29) - Papua New Guinea’s most prominent athletes -- weightlifter Dika Toua and swimmer Ryan Pini -- rose to the occasion at the 13th South Pacific Games in Apia, Samoa yesterday, bagging a handful of gold between them. The duo not only raked in the five gold between them for PNG but set new Games records in the process.

Twenty-two-year-old Toua bagged PNG’s first three gold medals at the opening day of competition at the Games yesterday (Monday, Samoan time) in the 53 kg category of the women’s weightlifting competition, while Pini, the reigning Commonwealth butterfly gold medallist, swam to two gold medals in the 50 meters breaststroke and the 200 meters freestyle.

Toua not only posted the country’s first gold medals but also broke her own record in the clean and jerk with a lift of 103 kg bettering her previous games record of 100 kg set in Koror, Palau during the 2005 Mini South Pacific Games.

In the snatch, the Hanuabada pocket rocket equaled her Games record of 80 kg, for a total of 183 kg, a new Games record. She piped her training mate and Samoan Urima Teryll who settled for silver while Alice Kawaia’a of Solomon Islands collected bronze.

Fellow Hanuabadan Rita Kari also won three gold medals in the 58 kg while Kathleen Hare won three silver in the 48 kg finishing behind Susan Hiram of Nauru.

After the day’s outing yesterday, Papua New Guinea returned eight gold medals and three silver medals for their efforts and more are in store as the second day arrives.

Toua now has set her eyes on the world championships in two weeks with her coach Paul Coffa expressing disappointment that Toua was unable to lift over 200 kg in the clean and jerk in preparations for the world titles.

He was confident, however, of her rising to the occasion when it comes.

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