Meet the world's strongest woman
A 52-year-old Invercargill woman is perhaps the strongest female in the world after belatedly winning the gold medal in the open-class heavyweight division at the Powerlifting World Cup.
Sonia Manaena competed in the 84kg-plus class in Sweden in June and finished second overall, but has been promoted to first after her Russian rival Irina Yaroshenko failed a drugs test.
The affable Manaena, who is good friends with double Olympic shot put champion Valerie Adams, said she had already couriered her silver medal back and hoped to receive her gold medal in several weeks.
A drugs cloud was hanging over her Russian rival during the World Cup and as a disappointed Manaena waited for the outcome of the drugs test she turned to her friend Adams for advice.
Adams, who would soon go through her own nightmare of being beaten by a drugs cheat at the London Olympics, told Manaena to be patient and to believe in the drug testing process.
"When I told Val they had overturned the result she was ecstatic, she was jumping around saying, yahoo," Manaena said.
Adams, who is still waiting for her gold medal, said last night she was proud of her friend and pleased justice had prevailed.
"She's mentally strong, very determined to be the best and she loves the sport. It's really good to have someone in New Zealand who can go and do the job."
Adams, a lover of Bluff oysters, may be visiting Manaena in Invercargill in October, hopefully with her Olympic gold medal. Manaena said she began powerlifting six years ago to lose weight - she was 145kg at the time - and had never looked back.
Now tipping the scales at about 120kg, much of it muscle, the Invercargill Farmers employee, whose day job is to catch shoplifters, said it was wonderful to beat her younger rivals and be crowned the world's best.
"I was the oldest in my class, I was up against 20-year-olds who were fit and firm and upright, but I still put it together," she said.
The event required competitors to do the squat, benchpress and deadlift, with Manaena lifting a combined total of 514.5kg.
Her lifts consisted of 177.5kg in the squat, 112kg in the bench press and 225kg in the deadlift.
New Zealand powerlifting team coach Brian Jenkins coaches Manaena in his Otatara gym about five mornings a week.
Jenkins put Manaena's success down to an impeccable technique, staying injury free and being a quick and eager learner, adding that powerlifters often got better as they got older.
Ironically, Manaena was denied funding by government agency Sparc this year, but was able to compete in Sweden thanks to her sponsors.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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