Eighteen-year-old Leyna-May Domonatani’s decision to switch to weightlifting three years ago paid off, elevating her from not only national to international competition but also a two-medal haul for Fiji.
Hailing from Ono-i-Lau, Domonatani who opted for online studies this year to be able to factor in training, impressed on her international debut at the recent 2023 Commonwealth Weightlifting Championship in New Delhi, India by clinching a gold medal in the junior category and a bronze in the senior category in the women’s 87-plus division.
“I wasn’t expecting to win any medals,” she said. “I was just going to enjoy the experience and try my best. It was my first international competition, and I put all my trust in the Lord.”
Born into a family with an affinity for sports, Domonatani initially followed the footsteps of her uncle and mother, who had represented Fiji in swimming and paddling, respectively. Swimming was her first love, and she pursued it from a young age. It was through swimming that she was introduced to weightlifting as a means of strength training.
During the COVID lockdown, Leyna-May decided to explore weightlifting further and reached out to coach Henry Elder to make the switch. Initially juggling both sports, she soon realised her true potential lay in weightlifting. Her coaches recognised her talent and encouraged her to focus solely on the sport, a decision that would prove to be life-changing.
“With swimming, I did not go to any international, I just took part in the nationals – never represented the country. It was my first international competition. Like they say do your best and God will do the rest.”
At the Commonwealth Games, Domonatani had set her sights on beating her personal bests (PB). While she narrowly missed a PB in the snatch event with her 75kg lift, she made a breakthrough in the clean and jerk. Her previous PB stood at 95kg, but she managed to hoist 97kg.
Since returning to Fiji with her medals, Domonatani has been reflecting on the experience of competing alongside renowned athletes
“Coming from the competition, I noticed that there are a lot of things that I can improve on. There were a lot of well-known athletes, up their level, so getting to know them and see them lift was exciting,” Domonatani said with a smile. “It was a good experience.”
Looking ahead, Domonatani has set her sights on two major events: the Pacific Games 2023 in the Solomon Islands and the 2024 Commonwealth Games in Fiji. With support from her coaches and family, she is eager to enhance her techniques and level up her performance.
At the New Delhi Commonwealth Games, Domonatani was part of a 7-member Fiji team. Among her teammates, Taniela Tuisuva Rainabogi won Gold in the Men’s 109kg category with a lift of 163kg in the clean and jerk and 200kg in the total lift. Another standout performer was Nehemiah Elder, who secured a silver medal in the Youth 73kg category, lifting a total of 242kg. Miriama Taletawa also made the nation proud by winning a bronze medal in the 71kg junior division with a total lift of 174kg. The team also included Margaret Vira Ateca, Elizabeth Josephine Chute, and Daniel Shaw.
Yesterday, the 7-member team was hosted for an afternoon tea at the Australian High Commission in Suva. The AHC provided significant support to the team by fully funding their trip to the Delhi Commonwealth Championships. The championships took place from July 11 to July 16.
AHC Charge De Affaires Stuart Watts praised the team saying that the commission had no regrets in providing support when they needed it.
“The PM recently in an interview – said when you walk into a room, you look here and then you look up again another 10 cm and you aim higher, that’s where you set the standard. Well, the weightlifting team not only looked higher but achieved higher. I went back and looked at my email, to see when Della (Weightlifting Fiji President Della Shaw) reached out to me to see if the AHC could support them. It was back on the 18th of May I received the email from Della. I tell you what, there are absolutely no regrets on our part. What a fantastic achievement from our weightlifting team.”
Fiji’s Prime Minister, Sitiveni Rabuka, who also serves as a life member and patron of Weightlifting Fiji, was equally pleased with the team’s accomplishments.
“I am proud of the achievements of our young people who have just come back from the competition in India. Well Done, I congratulate you. Whatever you set your mind to, you can achieve. I thank the families for their support.”