Choosing a weightlifter who finished second three times as a Commonwealth Games legend might seem unusual, but there is no doubt Dika Toua deserves that accolade because there is far more substance to her performances than what happened on the platform.

There might be more to come, too, because Toua is still going strong and will be lifting at Birmingham 2022 at the age of 38, with no plans to retire.

"I don't know when I will stop," she said. "Weightlifting is in my blood. I don't know if they can get rid of me."

Toua is a hero in Papua New Guinea, where she was her nation's first ever female weightlifter, and is an all-round legend within the sport.

She was the first to make a lift when women's weightlifting was added to the Olympic programme in 2000, when she was 16. She is the first female to have competed in the Olympic Games five times, and the first to take part in Olympic Games 20 years apart.

In the Commonwealth Games, Toua was upgraded from silver to gold in the 53 kilograms category at Glasgow 2014 on a doping disqualification. She was presented with her medal at a unique ceremony held in the Athletes' Village after the amended result was confirmed.

That was arguably her most remarkable success, not because it was achieved with a career-best total of 193kg, but because it came only a year after Toua was nearly killed by tuberculosis.

"It's horrible winning by disqualification, it's not fair as I don't get to experience the medal ceremony on the podium," said Toua. "It just isn't the same if you don't have everyone there in the arena watching you on top of the dais."

Looking at the bigger picture, though, Toua is happy to have been there at all. Less than 12 months earlier, after winning the Oceania title in Brisbane, she had returned to the Oceania Weightlifting Institute in New Caledonia feeling ill.

She was unable to train, was admitted to hospital and learned she had tuberculosis, which is rife in Papua New Guinea and kills thousands there every year.

She was lucky to be in Noumea, which then was home to the Oceania Institute. "They were able to diagnose the disease and they happened to have the right medicine, which had just been introduced at that time," she said.

Toua reached a low point during two weeks in isolation.

Dika Toua is a big star in Papua New Guinea ©Getty Images
Dika Toua is a big star in Papua New Guinea ©Getty Images

"When I was in hospital I sort of gave up on weightlifting," she said. "I guess that was the worst time for me. I said to myself when I get back to the Institute I might as well pack up and go back home."

But her long-time coach Paul Coffa - with whom she has been training in Melbourne, the Institute's new home city, in preparation for Birmingham 2022 – gave her a hug, told her everything would be fine and said she needed to start training again a day after her discharge from hospital.

"I couldn't bend my knees, I couldn't even squat 50kg, that's how hard it was during that period," she said. "But I fought my way back and I went to the Commonwealth Championships in Malaysia."

She then went on to win that gold medal when a Nigerian teenager was disqualified after testing positive in Glasgow.

Toua had won silver at 53kg on her first appearance at the Commonwealth Games, at Melbourne 2006, and missed Delhi 2010 as she was about to become a mother for the second time.

Toua was second again at Gold Coast 2018 but, said Coffa, she should have won there too.

The Indian who finished ahead of her, Sanjita Chanu, had tested positive at the World Championships a year earlier but was allowed to compete because of "an administrative error".

"That left a bad taste," said Coffa. "She should never have been there."

Now Toua, who is third in the rankings in the new weight category of 49kg, is aiming for another medal in Birmingham, and her many fans back in Papua New Guinea will be following her exploits on television.

"She's a sporting icon and role model here," said Sir John Dwanincura, President of PNG's National Olympic Committee and its Weightlifting Federation.

Dika's local fame means she spends a lot of time in the house when she is back in Hanuabada, a coastal village near the capital, Port Moresby.

"I hardly go anywhere - because everywhere I go I get mobbed, by kids and even by adults," Dika said.

"In a good way, of course - I think everybody loves me!"