Powerlifting: Manaena finally gets her golden moment

Powerlift World Cup gold medallist Sonia Manaena at her medal presentation ceremony at Invercargill's Civic Theatre on Thursday. Photo by Allison Rudd.
Powerlift World Cup gold medallist Sonia Manaena at her medal presentation ceremony at Invercargill's Civic Theatre on Thursday. Photo by Allison Rudd.
It has been a long time coming, but champion Invercargill powerlifter Sonia Manaena finally has her gold medals.

Manaena (51) was second in the open heavyweight division at the World Powerlifting Championships in Sweden in June, but was promoted after Russian Irina Yaroshenko failed a drug test.

On Thursday evening about 250 friends, family and supporters gathered at Invercargill's Civic Theatre to watch New Zealand Powerlifting Federation president Steve Lousich present her with freshly-minted medals.

Manaena stood proudly in a feather cloak as the national anthem was sung, and thanked her coach, Brian Jenkins, and her family for their unwavering support and belief in her.

Powerlifting has three disciplines - squat, bench and deadlift. There are two categories: raw, where competitors wear a leotard; and equipped, where they wear heavy body suits to strengthen their back and stomach muscles.

Unlike Olympic weightlifting, powerlifters lift only to their waist while standing, something which enables them to lift much heavier weights. Manaena's deadlift in Sweden was 235kg, enough to earn her a gold medal and a world record.

Manaena took up powerlifting in 2005. She had joined Jenkins' gym weighing 147kg and wanting to lose weight and begin a new life of exercise and healthy eating.

"I saw other people bench pressing and powerlifting and thought 'I could do that'," she said at the medal ceremony.

"Do that" she did, coming seventh overall at her first international competition in Norway the following year.

Competing in the 90kg plus class at Sweden against women more than half her age, Manaena won four medals - overall gold, gold in the raw deadlift, gold in the squat and silver in the bench lift.