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Weight of the world lifted as Aussies selected for Rio

9 June 2016

WEIGHTLIFTING: Being crowned the “second fittest woman on the earth” isn’t enough for Tia-Clair Toomey, who is set to add Olympian to her list of achievements.

The 23-year-old has today been selected to compete in weightlifting alongside dual Commonwealth Games medallist Simplice Ribouem at the Rio 2016 Games.

Both will make their Olympic debut at the Riocentro pavilion in Barra, with Australia securing two quotas at the Oceania Championships in Fiji last week.

Toomey, from Gladstone, QLD, said the Olympics will be a career highlight.

“I’m looking forward to standing on the platform wearing the Australian uniform. It’s the pinnacle of any sporting competition. I’m still trying to find the words.

“Being able to be surrounded by other athletes, swimmers, gymnasts. I’ll probably be star struck the whole time. It’ll be great to see how other athletes prepare and train.”

Toomey secured her spot on the 2016 Team at the competition in Fiji, lifting a higher percentage of the Rio qualifier in her division category than the other Australian female competitors.

She beat other Rio hopefuls, and friends, Erika Ropati-Frost, Kiana Elliott and Pip Malone for the spot.

“It was the most stressful week of my life. My first clean and jerk I failed. Then I managed to pull the total I needed and then had to sit and watch the others compete.

“Having to wait three extra days (while the other Australian women were competing) makes you know how important it is. I was gutted for the other girls but relieved (for myself).”

Last year she was given the moniker of second fittest woman at the CrossFit World Games in the USA. This year she’ll compete again at the Games in the US starting mid-July and then pull on the green and gold tracksuit for the Australian Olympic Team.

It’s a remarkable achievement for someone of such a young age, but it suits Toomey’s competitive nature.

“Both sports complement each other. Weightlifting is a weakness in CrossFit so it’s a high priority in training and it means my training is always varied.”

For Ribouem, the Olympics will mark a remarkable comeback after he was struck down by Malaria in 2015.

The 33-year-old booked his spot on the plane to Brazil with a higher percentage total than dual Olympian Damon Kelly and Rio hopeful Francois Etoundi.

“This means a lot. It’s the top aim of every athlete. I tried in 2008, missed out in 2012 and this time I’ve made it.

“I don’t have the words, it’s just happiness to represent Australia and I now I need to fight to be on the podium.”

The Cameroon-born athlete had been back in his home country with family after his father passed away in early 2015 and it was there he contracted the disease.

Ribouem has been working with staff at the Victorian institute of Sport, particularly on nutrition, as he returns from having around six months off the sport last year.

“I was on antibiotics before Fiji. I’ve managed to come back by training and antibiotics.

“I’ve been building up more strength and power. I’ve found that really helpful.”

It’s been an eventful career for Ribouem, after competing for Cameroon at the Melbourne 2006 Commonwealth Games he decided to stay in Australia and build a life. He’s since had two children (4 and 3) with his partner.  

Four years after moving here, he went on to represent his adopted country – claiming what he describes as his career highlight - a gold medal at the Delhi 2010 Commonwealth Games and then silver at the Glasgow 2014 Games.

Ribouem headed into the competition in Fiji as the top ranked Australian male and cemented that position with strong lifting. 

“Before the competition I was quite confident. First we had to secure the quotas for Australia, then it was individual qualification.”

Since his relief at securing nomination for Rio, he’s had the past week off, spending some much needed time with his family.

“My two boys have been in Queensland so I can train by myself. They’re back for a few weeks and the coach has given me the week off to spend with them.”

Toomey will compete on day three (August 8) of the Rio competition, while Ribouem will take to the platform on day eight.

These two additions take the 2016 Australian Olympic Team to 160, with more than 400 athletes expected. Complete biographies on all selected athletes here>>> 

ANNIE KEARNEY
olympics.com.au

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