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Phuket, Day 1: Dika Toua rescues hopes of sixth Olympics, Tokyo medallist out of Paris – and three more world records for PRK

Dika Toua from Papua New Guinea kept alive her hopes of setting an Olympic record when she made her final attempt on day one of the IWF World Cup in Phuket, Thailand – the final qualifying opportunity for Paris 2024. Toua, who will be 40 in June, is back on course to become the first weightlifter ever to compete at six Olympic Games.

While Toua was delighted, there was disappointment for the Tokyo Olympic medallist Windy Aisah from Indonesia, whose qualifying efforts have been badly hampered by injury. Aisah, one of four athletes in the 49kg C Group who were born after Toua made her Olympic debut 24 years ago, finished short of the 191kg she needed to move into the top 10 of the rankings.

Dika Toua (PNG)

There were three more world records for DPR Korea in the non-Olympic women’s 45kg. Won Hyon Sim, who had set snatch and total world records last month at the Asian Championships, bettered those two and also claimed the clean and jerk record in making 87-109-196.

Toua made her best total since 2019 despite failing with her first two clean and jerks. Her 75-96-171 took her ahead of Rosina Randafiarison from Madagascar, the best placed athlete for the continental qualifying slot in this category who lifts in the B Group on Monday.

She said: “When I went out for that last lift I was thinking this is it, you’ve got to do it. I said, ‘God help me.’ It worked.”

Toua, whose career started last century and who was the first woman ever to go on the platform at the Olympic Games, competed at Sydney 2000, Athens 2004, Beijing 2008, London 2012 and in Tokyo three years ago.

“It’s been a great journey but it’s not finished yet, whatever happens for Paris,” she said. “I’m going to Fiji in September for the Commonwealth Championships, and Fiji has the World Masters straight afterwards so I might as well try that too.

“Then I want to be at the Pacific Mini Games in Palau next year. I can’t stop. Weightlifting is my life.”

Toua leaves Phuket on Wednesday, arrives home on Friday and will immediately head to Goroka in the Eastern Highlands to lift on Saturday in the Papua New Guinea national championships.

If Toua is overtaken by Randafiarison or the Australian Brenna Kean on Monday, she still has a chance of going to Paris via a universality place. These six “wild card” invitations from the International Olympic Committee go to nations who do not qualify many athletes, in all sports, for the Olympic Games. Toua is among the 32 weightlifting applicants from 28 countries.

“I have faith that I will be in Paris,” Toua said.

Kean has been through a brutal weight cut to lift at 49kg for the first time. She is ranked behind team-mate Kiana Elliott at 59kg, and weighed in at 63.25kg last November when she competed at 64kg in the Oceania Championships.

Aisah is young enough, at 21, to try for Los Angeles 2028. She had injuries to both legs during qualifying and a persistent lower back problem that needs surgery, she said before the World Cup. She was able to make only five good clean and jerks in her five qualifying competitions.

In 2021 and 2022 Aisah won two junior world titles and a bronze medal in Tokyo. She holds all three youth world records at 49kg.

Thammy Nguyen (IRL)

A few minutes before Toua’s success, Thammy Nguyen, Ireland’s best ever female lifter, made her farewell from the platform. She is looking forward to spending more time with her two young children.

Nguyen retired after making 70-96-166. Her career was interrupted by motherhood, after which she became Ireland’s first female medallist at the European Championships. She was also the first woman from Ireland to lift at the IWF World Championships.

“I’ve wanted to give up every day since Qatar,” said Nguyen, referring to the Grand Prix in December when she realised she would never be able to make the 190kg or more needed to qualify for Paris.

“I’m happy about leaving. I won those medals that I hope will encourage younger lifters in Ireland, and now I’ll have family time that I haven’t had for three years.

“I know I’m retiring as an athlete, but who knows about the future? Maybe I’ll be involved again after a few years, maybe my kids will take up weightlifting.”

Won Hyon Sim (PRK)

In the 45kg, Won made six from six and set world records with her third, fifth and sixth attempts. Won, who will be 22 on Tuesday, has made 11 good lifts in 12 attempts and set five world records in her only two senior competitions.

She and her team-mates cannot go to Paris because PRK entered the qualifying programme too late.

Siriwimon Pramongkhol from Thailand made five good lifts in a row after failing with her first snatch to finish second on 75-101-176. Khong My Phuong from Vietnam was third on 76-84-160.

By Brian Oliver

Photos by Giorgio Scala/Deepbluemedia