Come on, Eileen for Aus-tra-li-aye: Weightlifter ready to hit high notes at Olympics


Eileen Cikamatana had to wait for her Olympic debut and now she plans to make it count.

The Fijian-born star will join Jacqueline Nichele and Kyle Bruce in Australia’s weightlifting team for Paris.

All are 24 and all will be at their first Olympics, with the biggest focus on Cikamatana.

She has won gold at the last two Commonwealth Games and is a big chance to end Australia’s medal drought in the sport at the Olympics.

The last podium was Stefan Botev’s super heavyweight bronze at the 1996 Atlanta Games and the only gold was Dean Lukin in the same category 40 years ago, at Los Angeles.

20 year old Eileen Cikamatana (81kg ????????) Power snatching 110kg and snatching 115kg at the Roma Cup!

— All Things Gym (@allthingsgym) February 7, 2020

“That’s the only thing we’re going for – we’re not going there just to be another participant. It’s to be a podium finisher, to be the top of the top, and be the best we can be,” Cikamatana said at Sunday’s team announcement.

“It feels real now – I wasn’t sure before, because it was qualifying and we needed to hear it from the AOC, the confirmation.

“I’m pretty pumped now … it’s going to be intense and we’re going to do it.”

Cikamatana won gold at the 2018 Commonwealth Games for Fiji, then switched to Australia because of a dispute with the national weightlifing federation.

The change of countries meant she could not compete at the Tokyo Olympics.

Cikamatana has also overcome a 2021 leg injury that disrupted her career for two years.

Under the guidance of coach Paul Coffa and his wife Lilly, Cikamatana has stuck it out to reach the Olympics as a serious medal prospect.

“It feels unreal, because as a kid I never dreamed of (going) far in life, with what I’ve achieved so far,” she said.

“When you grow up in the village (in Fiji) it’s simple and fun, you have nothing out of the box.

“But standing here today, I can’t say much because it’s a feeling I can’t even describe in words.

“I would congratulate the little self, the little Eileen, back in the day for not giving up when it got hard, but just kept going no matter the challenges.”

The Aussie weightlifters set to make their Olympic debut at #Paris2024 – Eileen Cikamatana, Jacqueline Nichele & Kyle Bruce ????

????‍ Eileen Cikamatana: women’s 81kg
????‍ Jacqueline Nichele: women’s 71kg
????‍ Kyle Bruce: men’s 89kg#AllezAUS | @awfcomau

— AUS Olympic Team (@AUSOlympicTeam) June 2, 2024

Cikamatana thanked the Coffas for their influence on her career.

“It’s all thanks to my coach and manager for making it possible – without them believing in me, it would be impossible,” she said.

Cikamatana and Bruce are competing this weekend at the Oceania elite international tournament in Melbourne, where the Paris team was announced.

Cikamatana will contest the 81kg category.

Bruce, a silver medallist at the Birmingham Commonwealth Games, is in the 89kg class and Nichele will lift in the 71kg category only five years after taking up the sport.

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