Women In Sports: Della Tells Her Story

Being the only female executive member of Weightlifting Fiji and the first women in the Pacific to be accredited as technical official by the International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) was an
24 Nov 2018 10:59
Women In Sports: Della Tells Her Story
Weifglifting Fiji’s Della Shaw- Elder received the Best Women Technical Official of the Year during the Fiji Sportsman and womn of the Year Awards by the then Minister for Sports Viliame Naupoto in 2012.

Being the only female executive member of Weightlifting Fiji and the first women in the Pacific to be accredited as technical official by the International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) was an outstanding achievement for Della Shaw Elder.

She shares her personal experience, life story, challenges and achievements.

What’s your current position?

I’m currently the vice-president of Weightlifting Fiji and the only female.

This is my second term (8th year) as VP however I’ve been in the sport for 24 years as an athlete, coach, manager and executive member. I’m currently working with my husband in our Fitness Consultancy Business. Elders Health & Fitness out of the National Fitness Center. We cater for almost all fitness requirements covering a wide scope of sports, and fitness activities for individuals and groups of all levels, ages, genders and communities. Prior to moving to our family business

I had worked for the Fiji Sports Council for 22 years in various positions from a gym attendant then slowly climbing the ladder to management position prior to leaving the council in May. I’ve been very fortunate to have had a supportive CEO Litiana Loabuka and her board that have granted my leave on numerous occasions for national representation at the many regional & international competitions, workshops/ training/ courses, meetings and seminars for weightlifting and sports in general. I would like to thank them for the years of continued support and encouragement they’ve given.

What motivates you to do what you do?  What are you most excited or passionate about?  What are the goals you most want to accomplish in your work?

I started weightlifting in 1994 after being identified as a potential weightlifter by my then coach Viane Amato Ali. I was a national athletics rep as a hurdler having represented Fiji at the Pacific Games in 1991 and Pacific School Games in 1993 when I was identified by my coach while doing strength training in the gym.

It was a very trying time for weightlifting but even more so for females as women had just started into weightlifting. Times were hard, funding was scarce, facilities and equipment was shared with bodybuilding and powerlifting as there was very little at the time. It was those tough times and challenges I faced in the past and the continued struggles for women that is my main driving & motivating factor to continue working in weightlifting.

I’m mostly excited & passionate about our possibilities with athletes. Fiji has an abundance of talent, we are flooded with exciting talent that are natural born athletes and it’s amazing how much our country has. The physical attributes of Fijians is what’s required in fast, explosive sports such as rugby, league, touch volleyball, athletics and also highly required in my sport of weightlifting. Just look around and you see so many strongly built, fast and explosive athletes Fiji has in the many sports we have, there’s so much all over the country. Over the years we have only tapped into one very small area of talent in Fiji (Levuka & Suva), there are 14 provinces in Fiji which are host to great talent that we have started to explore.

Over the last few months through the support of the Fiji National Sports Commission, Weightlifting Fiji has done Talent Identification programmes in Suva; Nadogo, Macuata; Vunisea, Kadavu and most recently in Lomeri and Navutulevu in Serua. Over these provinces we have identified a total of 20 promising lifters with many attending our training camps regularly.

This is one of my personal goals to see the development of athletes nationwide and to see their progression from novice all the way to high achieving elite athletes.

What motivated you to become a weightlifting official? Where did you grow up?

My motivation to be a weightlifting official is basically to ensure that the struggles I faced in the past can be eliminated and we are able to provide the very best we can for these current athletes.

I was focusing more on coaching previously but now I’m more involved with the administrative & technical aspects of weightlifting while managing our coaching network of which my husband is part of. Another motivating factor for me is being a female in what was most commonly known as a male dominated sport, having being selected & elected to many international events & positions. One factor is the fact that I’m the only female member of the Commonwealth Weightlifting Federation executive board.

I was unanimously elected at this year’s Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast. Recently I’ve also been selected to other international events such as;

  • 2017 Commonwealth Championships in Gold Coast Australia (technical official)
  • 2017 Asian Indoor Games in Turkmenistan (technical official)
  • 2018 Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast Australia (technical official)
  • 2018 World Junior Championships in Uzbekistan (technical official)
  • 2018 World Championships in Turkmenistan (Technical Official) – Olympic qualifier and introduction of New IWF bodyweight categories.

I grew up in very humble beginnings in Raiwaqa, Suva but at a very tender age our family moved to Alexander Street off Rewa Street which is where basically my whole life was spent until I eventually moved out some 10 years ago.

I have a very close  family that until this day spend many Sunday lunches together and have frequent family meetings and gatherings. Three of my siblings like myself were national reps and we were very fortunate to have the support from our late parents who always ensured we had the best they could provide.

My brother Tom was a national Touch & League rep, my twin Ivy was like me both athletics and weightlifting rep, my elder sister Mereia was a national hockey rep.

Our extended family had national representations with the Rodan family and Rodgers producing household names such as Joe Rodan Snr and Jnr, Ricky Rodan, Rachel Rodgers. I’ve been fortunate to have travelled extensively around the world from all around Europe, the Pacific, Asia, Middle East, the Americas.


Mentors who deeply influenced who you are today?

My key mentors in my career are;

  • My parents- Great home support and motivation
  • Family- Husband and children for their understanding and continued support
  • Joe Rodan Senior- inspirational family coach & mentor
  • James Rodgers- Hurdler coach and family
  • Viane Ali- 1st weightlifting coach and motivator
  • Quake Raddock- 1st National Coach
  • Weightlifting Fiji- Atma Maharaj, Chris Yee, Vidya Lakhan
  • Paul & Lilly Coffa- Oceania Institute coach, long time weightlifting mentor and coach and inspiring me to continue as a official through technical & coaching.
  • Government- Over the years various Governments have supported and made my career possible.


Did you have any life-changing experiences and challenges that put you on the path that led you to be doing what you’re doing today?

I have always been a motivated person. Challenges are a regular thing and these are what pushes me and drives me to continue with the work I do. Recently I resigned from my fulltime job at the Fiji Sports Council to focus on our family business and weightlifting.


Role of women in sports

Women provide a different outlook, perspective and experiences that can create a much better well balanced organization, community. We have qualities that are special only to women and see things differently which gives a variety of opinions different options for the organizations we work for. We are hardworking, determined & competitive. God has blessed with patience, endurance, longsuffering & the ability to withstand a great deal of pain!  Women need to be more forthcoming, bolder and trust in their abilities. They need to have the go getter attitude and reach for the skies!


When you think of the future of the kind of work you’ve talked about here, what gives you a sense of hope?

Our progression from the hard times, the difficult times and how we are now. The high achieving women in sports particularly my own experiences and how I’ve overcome them to achieve what I have…..that’s my hope….         I know we can achieve Olympic Games and to continue with my development and also promotion of women in weightlifting and sports in general. I’d like to see more women coaches & technical officials in Fiji and the region.


What’s next for you in your work?  What are you looking forward to? Lastly, I would like to say that my achievements in sport and my own personal career has been through the very humble beginnings and strong foundation of teachings from my family, church, and culture.

I have learned to respect, honour, appreciate and treasure all that have and all that I had. I have learned to know my place and to appreciate the hardships and the journey but most of all to remain humble in everything as my God & he alone deserve all the glory.
-Edited by Osea Bola



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