We come from a family of lifters — the Edwards sisters of Niue

The Edwards family (Photo: Supplied)

In this next instalment of the Islands Business’ build-up to the Pacific Games,  correspondent Alipate Pareti  takes a look at—the Edwards sisters of Niue—Maxine and Ramsi.

They will be carrying on in their family tradition of power and weightlifting.

Older sister Maxine, is a 22-year-old powerlifter competing in the +84kg Category in the Pacific Games.

“We come from a family of lifters, my little sister being a weightlifter and both my parents doing powerlifting as well. I have been lifting for about 4 to 5 years now, starting from when I was just 17 years old.”

Family guidance and support plays a pivotal role in her young career.

“My biggest motivation would have to be my family. They have seen me through all my worst and best training, good competition, and bad competition. They have really supported me throughout this powerlifting journey of mine and in anything I do in life.”

Representing Niue means a lot to Maxine. “Another big motivation of mine would be making my country proud. I’m always honoured to represent my island home on the international stage. My hope is that I make everyone back home proud of me.”

The young powerlifter is preparing well for the Pacific Games.

“My preparations towards this Games have been a little tough but it’s also been good. I try to train at least 4 to 5 times a week. I have a squat and bench set up in my garage and that’s where I do all my training.”

“I train a little differently from other powerlifters. I focus more on just the squat, bench and deadlift as other powerlifters will probably do other accessory work. So, I try to focus on volume which is heavy weights at high repetition. I find this easier for myself. It helps and motivates me to do better and lift heavier than the day before”, she added.

“And yes, I’m looking forward to the competition itself and also just being … in the athlete’s life… surrounded by the best athletes of the Pacific.”

But it’s not always about the highs in powerlifting.

Maxine is candid about the challenges she has faced as well.

“Being from a little island, the biggest struggle would have to be the lack of equipment on the island, and the lack of competition.”

“I was flying down to New Zealand every year just to compete in competitions that they don’t have in the islands. I was doing Auckland Championships, North Islands and even the New Zealand Nationals. It was a real challenge just trying to find funds to try and make it to all these competitions. My family and friends really played a big role to help me raise funds for these trips. But now, Niue Powerlifting Federations have just recently opened a gym back home in December of 2022. So, it’s now easier for our lifters back home”, she added.

Maxine was unafraid to share some of her vulnerabilities as she dares to become better.

Maxine powers through a 190kg squat
Maxine powers through a 190kg squat.

“Another struggle that I face a lot in this sport would probably be self-doubt. I doubted myself a lot. This will be my second Games in powerlifting and I hope it will go better than my last one. I bombed in my last Games and didn’t get up any of my dead lifts. I gave up lifting for about a year and half but my parents were a big drive into trying to get me back onto the platform. They have really shown me what I loved about this sport.”

Lifting is a huge part of the Edwards family, says Maxine.

“We all do some type of lifting. My sister would be our biggest motivator. She was the one who introduced us to lifting. She started out when she was very young. She got us into the gym. And we are just so happy that our Mom followed us, (even though she just started this year) I’m glad she fell in love with it.”

Maxine encourages the youths of Niue and the Pasifika to go after what they want.

“Never give up. Believe in yourselves and always work hard. We are natural born athletes and there’s a big world out there waiting for us to show them that the Pasifika countries have what it takes to make it big.”

Ramsi Carol Litomatala Kose Edwards is the youngest in the family. She will be the flagbearer for team Niue in the SOL23 Pacific Games.

“My name Ramsi comes from the [name of the] Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands programme (RAMSI) where my Dad served as a peacekeeper.”

Ramsi will be competing in the +87kg category in Weightlifting.

“My whole family are lifters. My sister, Maxine, is a powerlifter and so are both my parents.”

The 17-year-old weightlifter is very excited to represent Niue saying, “My biggest motivation is having the privilege to lift for my birth country, Niue. My family motivates and encourages me to do my best. They follow me to all my competitions. In 2019, we all went to the Pacific Games in Samoa. My sister and I were athletes while Mum and Dad were managers for powerlifting and weightlifting.”

“Since the Pacific Games are in the Solomon Islands, I am excited to see where my name comes from. I really want to meet the people and see some of the areas where my Dad served. He still keeps in touch with his friends there. The Solomon Islands is a very special place for our family”, said Ramsi.

Preparations have been strong for Ramsi.

Ramsi landing a lift
Ramsi landing a lift

“I have been training at my club (the Papatoetoe Olympic Weightlifting Club) since I arrived in New Zealand during the Pandemic. I train 3 to 4 times a week and juggle school and part time work on the weekends. We also have a gym in our garage where I also train with my Dad and sister from time to time.”

Ramsi also shared her tough times saying, “My biggest challenge was last year, just before the qualifiers for the Commonwealth Games when I dislocated my kneecap during training. My mum sent island medicine and I had extensive physio treatment. I competed four weeks later. It was a struggle.”

“Another challenge is my family being in different countries. My Mum works in Niue but I do get to speak to her whenever I want. She cheers me on from afar. I love it when she travels to come watch me”, said Ramsi.

“My encouragement to the youth of the Pacific is to never give up on your dreams and never limit yourself. Aim high and set your goals. We can excel in anything and any sport we put our minds to. We just need to commit ourselves and keep going even when it gets tough. Blessings will always come after when your faith and beliefs are tested”, added Ramsi.

Their father, powerlifting coach Tony Edwards says he manages his time around coaching the girls.

“Even though one of my daughters is weightlifting, I do the behind-the-scenes training with her. But she has her own training regimes with her club in New Zealand and she’s responsible to her coach in New Zealand.

It’s kind of an awesome moment to train them, train alongside them and to see them go to the Pacific Games and do well for themselves”, he added. 

“They are so proud of themselves being Niuean and they are just really stoked to be going to the Pacific Games, participating together and being competitors as sisters, even though it’s different sports. But for them as siblings to go to the Pacific Games, I think it’s kind of special.”

Tony Edwards wears many sporting hats in Niue. He is the assistant Chef De Mission for Team Niue and the President of the Niue Powerlifting Federation. He also helps coach the athletes. 

“My expectation for Team Niue is, get out there and do what they need to do. Hope they will be able to achieve the goals they have set for themselves and do what one does at these games. Medals come after, but that’s after you’ve put a lot of effort into your training. And once they know they’ve given their all, then we’ll just reap the results once we are in the Pacific Games arena.”