Weightlifting in New Zealand enjoys huge popularity and this is partly due to the increased involvement of Māori and Pasifika athletes.
The National Weightlifting Championships in Mt Maunganui this weekend have attracted a record number of entries, with over 200 athletes set to test their strength and skill against the best from across the motu.
There is no doubt that the success of weightlifters like David Liti at the Commonwealth Games has given the sport a much needed boost, especially among the Pasifika community.
The ethnicity shift has been happening for several years, helped in part by the opening of gyms in places like South Auckland.
Sam Manuela, identity and mental health lecturer in the Pacific at the University of Auckland, will be competing in the Masters competition this weekend.
Manuela says Māori and Pasifika people are drawn to sports that have a lot of power in them – and it’s helped by clubs that give a sense of community.
“What a weightlifting club offers is a lot of camaraderie, camaraderie and teamwork.
“While it’s an individual sport, it allows people to bring and channel their power into it.”
Susana Nimo, who is of Tongan and Niuean descent, only started lifting weights in Papatoetoe early this year, having previously done crossfit.
Despite her lack of experience, the 26-year-old has been noticed by national selectors and says her dramatic progress has surprised her.
“I didn’t see there would be a path when I got into it, I just wanted to train and then it just turned around.
“When I started to see the numbers (weights) increase, it left me wanting more.”
Nimo works with troubled teens for juvenile justice and says she hopes to get them involved in sports.
She believes there are many aspects of weightlifting that would appeal to young people.
“If there is a PB (personal best), it’s so cool if you actually get results from your training.
“It’s like anything, but when you see it physically, it’s more encouraging because there’s a drive when you get results.”
Olympian Megan Signal says with so many Māori and Pasifika athletes taking up the sport, she believes New Zealand weightlifting teams will soon be dominated by those ethnicities.
“It will be better than we ever were to be among the community and train alongside young weightlifters that I can already see.
“It’s very exciting to be a part of it and I definitely see that happening… it’s growing and it’s cool to be a part of it.”
Megan Signal will headline the National Championships at Mt Maunganui this weekend alongside fellow Olympian David Liti along with a handful of Commonwealth Games lifters