Te Arawa Fisheries’ Innovation and Technology Officer, Nicole Pakau, recently represented Aotearoa at Tū’aro māo’hi in Tahiti, placing first in the stone lifting event.
The traditional indigenous sporting event holds an important place in the Polynesian world, bringing together nations across the Pacific.
Aotearoa has sent a national team for the past seven years, with the competitors hand-selected by the coach in the months leading up to the event.
With experience in Olympic weight lifting, Nicole was approached to train and compete in the stone lifting event.
She says there is a whole different technique to stone lifting and her training often left her covered in bruises and scratches.
But all her hard mahi paid off when the time came for her to participate in the under 90kg women’s stone lift.
From ground to shoulder, Nicole completed her lift in 1.8 seconds, placing her first in her weight class, and securing the second-fastest lift out of both women’s weight classes.
With every team member securing at least one podium spot in every event, Nicole says this has been New Zealand’s most successful year competing in Tū’aro māo’hi.
“It has been an amazing experience and everyone in Tahiti is so warm and welcoming.
“In the days after the events, we had people congratulating us and asking for selfies. Tū’aro māo’hi has such a fervent following, as an athlete, you really do get treated like a celebrity.
“I would love to return next year to represent Aotearoa and defend my title.”