WITH an international gold medal around her neck, Ipswich weightlifter Erika Ropati-Frost can prepare confidently for her next mission - the world championships in Texas.
Ropati-Frost, 27, was crowned 53kg overall champion at this week's Pacific Games in Papua New Guinea.
An emotional Redbank Plains competitor rated beating PNG favourite Dika Toua as one of the highlights of her career.
"It's definitely right next to the bronze from Melbourne 2006 Commonwealth Games,'' Ropati-Frost said.
"It was very special to hear my national anthem play.
"I couldn't hold the tears back.
"To win the first gold for Australia at the Pacific Games is an absolute honour.
"It's just so overwhelming."
Before heading to Port Moresby, Ropati-Frost spoke about her Olympic ambitions and the importance of her latest competition.
She highlighted why she's Australia's number one ranked female lifter.
Living in the Ipswich area since 2011, the Darwin-born sportswoman adopted a clever approach to surprise her highly-rated main opponent.
The three times Commonwealth Games athlete said her final snatch of 82kg set up the win.
"Going into it I didn't know what to expect, it was all about playing the game,'' she said.
"We put in a really low start. That was a good tactic because they weren't prepared for what I was possibly capable of doing.
"For the snatch I was really excited, it was good nerves.
"I knew I was strong enough. I think I put myself in a gold medal position."
Ropati-Frost and Toua have been international rivals for a decade.
Toua had won multiple gold medals before meeting the Aussie challenger.
"It was very exciting. Going into it, I didn't know what to expect,'' Ropati-Frost said.
In front of a passionate home crowd, Toua made three unsuccessful lifts in the snatch, only to come back on the platform for the clean and jerk and lift a huge 110kg. That was more than double her body weight.
Ropati-Frost lifted 97kg on her first attempt and was unsuccessful with 104kg on her second and third try.
"I think I wasn't as fired up (in the clean and jerk) as I'd usually be because I knew I had the overall win," Ropati-Frost said.
"We wanted to play my first lift safe just to make sure we got a lift and that would secure me a silver. Then on my second and third, we wanted to go for gold.
"Because she had me on body weight, I wanted to do one kilo more on anything she did.''
The Ipswich lifter appreciated the PNG experience as she focuses on the world championships before next year's Oceania titles and Olympics.
"The crowd was fantastic . . . one of the best crowds I've ever competed in front of,'' she said.
"PNG had done such a fantastic job getting the crowd in, it looked sold out and had a great vibe.''
Fellow Queenslander Mary Barter launched Australia's inaugural event in style, with three silver medals in the 48kg division, snatch, clean and jerk and overall.
The Ipswich lifter and Barter will work towards the world championships in Houston, Texas, in November.
"Now I know I'm stronger and I want more,'' Ropati-Frost said.
"I'm definitely a step closer to where I want to be.''
- Information and photo from the Australian Olympic Committee
OLYMPIC prospect Erika Ropati-Frost was highly motivated in Papua New Guinea.
"I really wanted it,'' she said.
"I've been really training as hard as I can for this competition and I knew I was strong enough to be really competitive with it.
"I wanted to make sure that I gave myself every possibility to put myself in a gold medal position.''