‘Ata Maama Tu’utafaiva Tonga
By Bob Snow
‘Ata Maama was born on 25 May 1997 at Ha’afeva, a small island in the Ha’apai Group in northern Tonga. Her main event has been the Shot Put.
She started her athletics career in Tailulu Primary and High School in Havelu on the main island of Tongatapu.
In her first major international meet – the Mini Games in Wallis & Futuna in 2013 – ‘Ata Maama competed in the Shot Put (4th with a throw of 12.55m) and the Discus.
In 2014, while still in the Youth category (U18) she won the U20 Shot Putt (13.39m) and the Senior Shot Putt (13.64m) at the Rarotonga Oceania Championships.
As an 18-year-old she won the bronze medal in the Shot Put in the 2015 Pacific Games in Port Moresby. Her distance was 13.03m. Prior to the Games ‘Ata Maama came 3rd in the Senior Women’s Shot (13.65m) at the Cairns Oceania Championships.
Two years later she won the Shot Put (14.95m) at the Mini Pacific Games in Port Vila (Vanuatu). Also, in 2017, in the Oceania Championships in Suva, she came 3rd in the Shot with a distance of 14.07m
The following year she represented Tonga in the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games, where she made the final in the Shot Put with a personal best distance of 15.36m.
In 2019, in the lead-up to the Pacific Games in Apia, ‘Ata Maama came 3rd in the Shot in the Oceania Championships in Townsville, and then won the Shot Put in a Grand Prix event in Lautoka, Fiji, with a throw of 15.88m. She also won the Discus (36.08m). Nine days later she won the Apia Games Shot Put with a distance of 16.61m.
Later in 2019 she was named the Emerging Athlete of the Year – Female, by Oceania Athletics.
In the 2022 Oceania Athletics Championships in Mackay, Queensland, ‘Ata Maama closed in on her personal best performance with a good throw of 16.29m to be the only Pacific Islander to win a Senior Title in the Championships.
Looking to the future, ‘Ata Maama hoped to triumph yet again in the Pacific Mini Games in Saipan, and to once again make the Shot Put Final in the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham. (She achieved both of these goals).
The 2024 Paris Olympic Games also beckon, with the chance to emulate the Tongan NR Holder, ‘Ana Po’uhila (18.03m) in having the opportunity to be an Olympian.
After arriving in Mackay for the Oceania Championships, ‘Ata Maama worked with Dame Valerie Adams who has been a very good mentor and coach. In just a few training-sessions she was able to add nearly 2 metres to her season’s best throw. With great potential for the future, all in the Pacific and in the wider Athletics’ world, will be following her progress and success in the years ahead.
Final preparation in Mackay before taking out the Oceania Title.
After being the only Pacific Islander to take out an individual Oceania Championship Title in Mackay, ‘Ata Maama went on to the next major competition for 2022 the Saipan Pacific Mini Games. In Saipan success was found once again with the gold medal in the Shot (15.60m) and bronze in the Discus (37.02m).
From Saipan the hectic 2022 journey continued to the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham. In these Games Ata Maama threw 15.37m in the qualifying round and then (finishing in 10th position) 16.30m in the final. It was the second Commonwealth Games in a row in which Ata Maama made the final, finishing in 8th position on the Gold Coast in 2018.
Next year will be full of exciting opportunities for ‘Ata Maama with the Polynesian Championships in Lautoka in June and then the Pacific Games in Honiara in November. She will be eyeing more gold for the Kingdom of Tonga.]
Shot Put medal ceremony in Saipan. Pure Polynesian Power.