The Eye adds to star's accolades
The Invercargill Eye presents its newsmaker of the year:
Her warm smile was on our television screens, her stories spread across newspapers.
She made headlines because of her physical strength but behind her power and determination is a cheeky grin, contagious laugh and welcoming personality.
Invercargill's powerlifting queen, Sonia Manaena shot to fame after winning the silver medal in the open heavyweight at the World Powerlifting Championships in Sweden in June, then promoted to first after the Russian, Irina Yaroshenko, failed a drug test.
It was that gold medal-winning effort and another inspirational year for Manaena, which saw her named The Eye's Newsmaker of the Year.
The spotlight is nothing new for Manaena, who became a household name in Southland when she finally received her overall gold medal in front of her whanau and friends - on TV3's Campbell Live - at a ceremony at the Civic Theatre last month.
She was also presented with her deadlift and squat gold medals, plus a silver she won for the bench lift.
"It was very special having it here at home," Manaena said.
She said she was still adjusting to the fame but it made her proud to be a Southlander.
When she was awarded a Maori World Champions Award earlier in the year, she was shocked to find herself among politicians, sport stars and New Zealand personalities, she said.
But despite the unfortunate circumstances that led her to becoming one of the faces of Southland with her belated gold medal ceremony presentation, Manaena has no regrets how it panned out, even though she was sad to miss out on the official ceremony at the championships, and the chance to hear God Defend New Zealand, in front of her fellow competitors.
In fact, it gave her the chance to share her gold winning moment with her family. It was, you could argue, a perfect way to finish the year.
"It has been a big year," she said.
But 2012 might not be as big as 2013.
She is so busy she has had to turn down competitions but will still travel to Australia, Colombia and Russia to compete and defend her heavyweight title.
"It's going to be a huge year and I am really excited about it."