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Sioe Haiti Tofilau (third from right) with her family.

Sioe Haiti Tofilau (third from right) with her family.



Gym aims to help Pacific youth improve health through weighlifting

Sioe Haioti-Tofilau says there are benefits for mental and physical health, by encouraging children to channel energy into lifting.

Grace Tinetali-Fiavaai, Te Rito Journalism Cadet
05 October 2023, 10:40am
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A multitalented weightlifter has opened a gym and wants to help Pacific youth improve their mental and physical health through weightlifting.

Sioe Haiti-Tofilau, 38, is from the villages of Alofi and Hakupu in Niue and has connections to Samoa through her husband, Sauoaiga Tolo Faumui Tofilau.

“I've seen so many of my family members die young, and I was in the same boat, going downhill with my own health,” Haioti-Tofilau says.

“I want to make a change for my people and be able to support them.

“Having this space allows me to teach weightlifting to both our younger generations and to adults who are interested in learning and finding inspiration in it.”

The mother-of-six wants to mentor children in a safe environment so they can focus on their future.

“To get them focused on group activity and weight lifting, allowing them to focus on something rather than being out on the streets and being in trouble in school.”

Haioti-Tofilau says there are benefits for mental and physical health, by encouraging children to channel energy into lifting.

“This programme will help set them up mentally to make better decisions and stay out of trouble,” Haioti-Tofilau says.

It has been over two weeks since the opening of their gym, Catalyst, with co-owners John Leolahi, Chelsea Cuthers-Munro, Luseane Taoa, and husband Tofilau.

Haioti-Tofilau lifted weights for the first time in 17 years at the opening, reigniting her desire to give back to the community.

Her weightlifting journey began in 2002, with a bet with her cousin Aseri that she could lift more than his body weight.

“In 2002, from that bet I had with my cousin, I ended up lifting more than him, so I was approached to be on the Niue weightlifting team,” Haiti-Tofilau says.

There was a national competition in Niue, and Haioti-Tofilau broke all the country's female weightlifting records within a month.

Later that year, small Pacific Island nations flocked to Niue to compete in the South Pacific Games and Oceania, where she won every title.

A selector offered her a scholarship to Fiji.

“I went on a scholarship to the Institute of Weightlifting to train how to become an elite athlete for weightlifting full-time,” Haiti-Tofilau says.

Haiti-Tofulau lived in Fiji from 2003 to 2006, when she retired.

In 2005, there was a Commonwealth championship for weightlifting, where Haioti-Tofilau placed 2nd.

A year later Haioti-Tofilau participated in the 2006 Commonwealth Games.

She placed fifth in the Women's 75 kg+ Combined with a 214 kilogram lift.

“I had no idea I was 6 weeks pregnant and unfortunately, I lost my last lift, which would have had me placed 2nd for a silver.

“I placed 5th overall, but I was still at the top in Oceania and the South Pacific,” Haioti-Tofilau says.

That moment at the Commonwealth Games changed her life, outside of lifting.

Haioti-Tofilau, who was 20 at the time, had become more mentally prepared for failure.

“I could always accept my failure and do better, so I learned that failure is okay; it just matters that you get back up and do it again.

“If there were any downfalls, it was the opinions of others. I learned that you have to close outside noise and keep focused on what you envision yourself to be, and then you will succeed in your lane."

Weightlifting taught her many valuable life lessons.

“When you set yourself a goal, you pray, you fast, you focus on that goal, and you will be successful in life,” the weightlifter says.