Dika Toua is hoping to participate at Paris 2024 ©ITG

Dika Toua, whose first appearance at the Commonwealth Games was 20 years ago in Manchester, came within one lift of winning her fourth Games medal at the age of 38, at the National Exhibition Centre here.

Despite the disappointment of coming so close, the mother of two declared her intent to compete at the Olympic Games for a record sixth time in 2024. 

No weightlifter has competed at the Olympics more than five times.

The Papua New Guinea (PNG) weightlifter has already gone down in history as the first female ever to lift at the Olympic Games. 

That was in Sydney in 2000, when she was 16 - the age her son will be later this year.

"I have no plans to retire and I aim to be in Paris in 2024," Dika said. 

"You can’t get rid of me yet - weightlifting is in my blood.

"I have a coaching diploma and a qualification as a referee and I thought at one time that I might go into an admin role.

"But when I spent time away from competing during my illness (in 2013) and during Covid, it just made me realise that this is my life, I don’t want to stop."

Dika needed to make her final clean and jerk of 98kg to move into the medal positions but, after making her first five lifts, she failed with the last one.

"I still enjoyed myself - the crowd was fantastic, the whole set-up here is so good, it was a wonderful experience. 

Dika Toua's second cousin Morea Baru won a silver medal in the men’s 61kg at Birmingham 2022 ©ITG
Dika Toua's second cousin Morea Baru won a silver medal in the men’s 61kg at Birmingham 2022 ©ITG

"It just makes me want to keep going."

Her longevity is remarkable given that she was close to death in 2013, having contracted tuberculosis.

She was taken to hospital in New Caledonia, where she was training at the Oceania Weightlifting Institute with her long-time coach Paul Coffa, and they happened to have the right medicine, which had just been introduced at that time.

"Despite everything, I just want to keep on going, to qualify for my sixth Olympic Games.

"I started very young and even when I do retire from competition, weightlifting will not get rid of me."

Dika has officiated at an international youth competition in Oceania, but while she continues to compete,  Papua New Guinea is without any Category 1 or 2 officials.

"Sadly they all passed away with Covid," she said. 

"One was a former national coach, and we lost all three of our international referees.

"It’s a struggle, we need to rebuild, but we will get there.

"We hope to get new people qualified."

Earlier, Toua’s second cousin Morea Baru, who trained with her at a makeshift gym at her in-laws’ home while gyms were closed by Covid restrictions in Papua New Guinea, won a silver medal in the men’s 61kg.

He is 32 and, like Toua, is aiming to keep going for a while yet, with the 2026 Commonwealth Games in Victoria, Australia a long-term target.

"The thing that keeps me going is the fact that Dika keeps going, and I look up to her," he said.

While he was speaking, after the medal ceremony, Baru was wearing Dika’s PNG uniform as his was too baggy.

They hope to be wearing PNG uniforms again at Paris in two years' time and will both prepare in Melbourne for the 2022 International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) World Championships in Colombia in December, the first Olympic qualifying event.

"Age doesn’t matter, it’s how you look at life and what you want to do with it, what you want to achieve," said Baru.