San Francisco woman first female weightlifter to represent Tonga at Tokyo Olympics

A 20-year-old woman from San Francisco will be competing as a weightlifter in the Tokyo Olympics. Her coaches say she worked hard to overcome challenges to achieve success.

Kuinini Manumua started lifted weights when she was 13-years-old at Lincoln High school.

She credits her success to her coaches and her family.

"It's very empowering for a girl to do lifting. It makes me feel strong," says Manumua.

Strength this college student says she needs on this journey. She was born in American Samoa and moved with her family to live in her parents' home country of Tonga.

She and her family came to live in San Francisco when she was 10.

They live in public housing in the Hunter's Point neighborhood where she says violence is common.

"A lot of people may say you can't do it where you're not coming from the best circumstances. You find a way to do it," says Manumua. 

She also found a way to be the first in her family to attend college.

"To have the background that she has, to make it to the Olympics, I don't know what better story there is," says her coach Ben Hwa, who will be travelling with her to the Tokyo Olympics.

 Manumua started weightlifting as a freshman at Lincoln High School.

She was a volleyball player when she caught the eye of coach and high school teacher Kevin Doherty.

He says she has athleticism and maturity, "If there is one word to describe her, it's perseverance."

Just last July, Manumua fractured her left knee and couldn't lift.

Doherty says with perseverance and hard work, she was training again just three months later, "Like any great athlete, your weakest moments are your greatest opportunity to learn."

One month ago she won gold at an international competition. She won first place again in a national meet just two weeks ago.

Manumua will be representing Tonga in the Olympics, a tribute to her heritage.

"There's never been a Tongan female weightlifter. I actually don't see any poly girls lifting," Manumua says, "It amazes me that I'm even going to the Olympics."

She will be leaving for the Tokyo Olympics July 25. She hopes to place in the top 10.

Manumua says her goal is to enjoy this incredible journey.

Another Olympic games may be in her future.