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Using Pac Games to connect with her Cook Islands heritage

Tuesday July 09, 2019 Written by Published in Other Sports
Matanoko McDonald at the 2019 Pacific Games in Samoa. Matanoko McDonald at the 2019 Pacific Games in Samoa.

Matanoko McDonald (pictured) has never been to the Cook Islands, but she isn’t letting that stop her from representing the country at the 2019 Pacific Games in Samoa.


The nineteen-year-old weightlifter who resides in Mount Maunganui, New Zealand, is the Cook Islands’ only competitor in the code at this year’s games. She first became involved with the sport after deciding it would be a good way for her to stay active, without putting great amounts of stress on her muscles.

McDonald suffers from compartment syndrome, a painful condition that occurs when pressure within muscles builds to dangerous levels.

The syndrome affects her calves and at the age of only 15 years old, she was forced to have surgery.

“After my operation, I was looking for something that was not as high-intensity as running, because that was obviously taking a toll on my calves,” McDonald says.

She soon discovered weightlifting and has not looked back since.

McDonald has now been involved in the sport for a little over two years. She has competed domestically in New Zealand, but says her selection to represent the Cook Islands is her greatest achievement to date.

“Having the opportunity to represent my country and make my family proud is amazing,” McDonald says.

McDonald lost her father when she was seven years old and says she has never had the chance to get to know her Cook Islands family or heritage.

She says being a part of Team Cook Islands for the Pacific Games has been a great experience.

“I’ve met family that I never knew I had.”

McDonald usually competes in the 76kg and under category but will be participating in the women’s 81kg and under division here in Samoa. She begins competing on Thursday (CI time).

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