Kuinini “Nini” Manumua started weightlifting when she was just 13 years old. Now, she will make history at the Tokyo Olympics by becoming the first woman ever to represent Tonga in the sport of weightlifting.
The 20-year-old athlete qualified for the Olympics after she received a tripartite invitation—a sort of wild-card slot for underrepresented countries—earlier this month. She told the San Francisco Chronicle, “I was crying, I was so happy.”
Aside from qualifying for the Olympics, Manumua is working on getting her clean and jerk weight record over 300 pounds. Weighing 240 pounds herself, she can snatch above her own weight at an astounding 242 pounds.
“It’s very empowering for a girl to do lifting,” she told KTVU Fox 2. “It makes me feel strong.”
Manumua was born to a Tongan family in American Samoa, and her family later relocated to Tonga and then to San Francisco. She grew up in housing projects and is the first member of her family to attend college.
“To have the background that she has, to make it to the Olympics, I don't know what better story there is,” her coach Ben Hwa told KTVU Fox 2. Hwa will be traveling with Manumua to the Olympics later this month.
“A lot of people may say you can't do it where you’re not coming from the best circumstances. You find a way to do it,” Manumua said.
And find a way, she has. Manumua will be competing in the 87KG weightlifting competition on Monday, August 2. We wish Nini the best of luck in her Olympic competition!