Fijian weightlifter Eileen Cikamatana has been awarded permanent residency in Australia and has her sights set on representing her new country at the 2022 Commonwealth Games.
The 19 year lifter won gold in the women’s under 90kg division at last year’s Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast but last year vowed to never represent Fiji again.
She was part of the Levuka weightlifting community that has split away from Weightlifting Fiji, claiming the national body has mistreated and bullied their athletes.
Eileen Cikamatana confirmed she received her Australian permanent residency a few days ago, under the distinguished talent visa, and her international future will now be in the green and gold.
“If I get the passport then there’s several processes that I need to go through in order to qualify for certain events,” she said.
“For the Olympics (next year) I have no chance for that because since the process of getting a new passport will take a while and all I need to do is just keep training and keep waiting.”
Cikamatana said she is now eligible to compete in local and state competitions after registering in New South Wales and was willing to wait as long as it takes to represent Australia.
“The Commonwealth Games in 2022, the World Championships – I’ve got the whole world in front of me,” she said.
“I’m still young and I still have a long way to go and a big ladder to climb up so no matter how long, if I miss this Olympics there’s a next one in 2024 – it’s not like it’s the end of the world where I’ll miss everything.”
Cikamatana said she will still train under her coach Paul Coffa at the Oceania Weightlifting Institute in Noumea but will also make regular trips to Sydney, while her coach from Levuka, Joe Vueti, will be visiting her in New Caledonia in the coming weeks.
She claimed Weightlifting Fiji showed a lack of respect to its athletes but said the Australian weightlifting community has welcomed her with open arms.
“They’ve done everything – I’ve registered as a member in the New South Wales clubs in Sydney and the Australian Weightlifting Federation helped me with it,” she said.
“I’m happy to be part of them since they take interest for the athletes, that’s what really really made me speechless.”
Cikamatana admitted she was sad to be leaving Fiji, and especially her family, behind but insisted she had no choice but to move on.
“I’m proud to be Fijian but after all the tries that I’ve tried to attempt we just asked them for two things but they refused to help us with that.”
And how would she feel if she won a Commonwealth Games or Olympic medal for Australia and heard ‘Advance Australia Fair” blaring out over the speakers?
“I’ll be on top of the world since getting an Australian citizenship is one of the hardest to get. They gave me an opportunity – why not take it?”