Lifting Dreams: Fijian Young Athletes' Journey to the Pacific Games of Weightlifting
Meet Keren Vulaca and Zion Tokona, both 15-year-old weightlifting athletes breaking social norms.
"Weightlifting is a sport that allows you to express your emotions. Whether it's a good or bad day, you can come here on the platform, show it, and fulfill the duties assigned to us," says Keren. Reflecting on her introduction to athletics, she acknowledges the significant roles played by her coaches, Tony Rabuiliku, Coach Wals, and Strength and Conditioning coach for the club, Coach Henry Elder. "We would always train twice a week in the gym," she shares.
Keren further reveals, "I would come and train, and Coach Henry would admire the way I lifted and the weights I handled. He recruited me to try out for the team after having a conversation with my parents. It wasn't part of the plan, but it's God's plan."
Zion adds, "Thinking about the past year, I remember my cousin Christian representing Fiji in the triathlon at the Pacific Games. His journey inspired me to start my own sports adventure, aiming for the excitement of competing internationally and proudly representing my country."
Both Keren and Zion give the same advice to young athletes, stressing the importance of hard training and keeping God first.
"If you want to compete internationally, commit to hard training and always prioritize putting God first. When things get tough, rely on Him for strength," advises Zion.
Keren encourages, "I challenge all you girls; what a man can do, girls can do too. So, if I can lift, you can lift. I challenge all of you to take up a sport in weightlifting. Always thank God for everything you do, acknowledge Him, and remember that the only way is up."
These young athletes share a strong desire to be part of the Commonwealth Games and, later, the Olympics. Their goal is to represent Fiji and bring home a gold medal for their country and families. They are determined to make Fiji proud on the international stage.
Believing that every child has the right to grow up in a sustainable environment, UNICEF emphasizes the children's right to play and grow up in a safe, sustainable setting where their hopes and dreams can come true.
In working towards this objective, UNICEF collaborates with partners to raise awareness of General Comment No. 26 (2023), emphasizing children's rights and the environment. This statement highlights the considerable impact of climate change on children and stresses the importance to protect their rights, especially in the face of environmental challenges.