Lifting more than 200kg over one’s head is no mean feat for Australia’s top weightlifter, who experienced all the bells and whistles of the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham.
CAPTION: Leading Seaman Suamili Nanai conducts a weightlifting training session at HMAS Stirling gymnasium in preparation for the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham. Story by Sergeant Matthew Bickerton. Photo by Leading Seaman Craig Walton.
Leading Seaman Suamili Nanai took up weightlifting in 2020 after looking for a new sport.
“I was told I couldn’t play rugby anymore because I’d had too many knocks to the head, so I found something else to do,” Leading Seaman Nanai said.
He gave CrossFit a go but found cardio wasn’t his thing. At a local weightlifting gym, a coach noticed his strength and said he had the potential to compete.
Following a three-month program in 2020, Leading Seaman Nanai broke the West Australian snatch record during competition.
He holds the Australian record in snatch, clean and jerk, and total weight, with an unofficial personal best clean and jerk of 220kg.
Competing in the Commonwealth Games was a goal Leading Seaman Nanai set for himself in his last year of high school – long before he took up weightlifting.
“I only ever dreamed about walking through that stadium, being announced as an athlete, surrounded by 40,000 people cheering,” he said.
“It was so surreal and an achievement just to be there.”
Leading Seaman Nanai competed in the super-heavyweight division, coming sixth, saying nerves and some changes to his routine affected his performance.
“It was the first time I’d been on a big stage in a sold-out arena with all these cameras broadcasting to millions of people,” he said.
“My entire workplace took the day off to watch, including my church, family and friends.
“I have no issue with strength, just a little stage fright.”
Weighing 22kg less than the next competitor, Leading Seaman Nanai was the youngest and lightest weightlifter in his division.
“Being in the military, I have to be careful how much weight I put on. I still have a responsibility to be fighting fit in the Navy,” he said.
“I have a lifestyle outside of weightlifting that requires me to be healthy.”
Leading Seaman Nanai is still relatively young compared to other competitors in the sport, and has set his eyes on the Paris 2024 Summer Olympics.