The Australia-based athlete managed the bronze medal in the women’s 75 kilogramme category at the Pacific Mini Games in Vanuatu last month.
The medal win was special for Woonton, the daughter of former Cook Islands prime minister Dr Robert Woonton, and she hopes it will motivate her to perform better in the upcoming event.
Woonton won her first bronze medal in the snatch with a lift of 71kg followed by the second bronze in the clean and jerk, with a lift of 91kg.
In total, she managed 162kg to claim the third bronze medal.
“It was my first mini games. I had previously competed at the Pacific Games which is a bigger event, in PNG in 2015,” Philippa said.
“It (the medal win) was pretty special. It is always good to put on my Cook Islands uniform and represent my country.
“To deliver a medal to the Cook Islands and the first medal of the games for our team was pretty exciting.”
Woonton said it was a challenge to be the first member from Team Cook Islands to compete at the mini games which was held from December 4 to 15.
“There is pressure if you are the first one up. It really dawned on me on the day of the competition,” the 32-year-old said.
“Usually you can take some inspiration from the earlier athletes who have competed but I like to think I’m not a newbie anymore, with the experience that I have gained and I just had to rise to the occasion and perform.”
Philippa said her bronze medal win was not a surprise to her as she expected to finish in the top three of her weight division.
“I have been to so many competitions where I have met fellow weightlifters (from across the region) and we have become familiar with each other,” she said.
“We sort of know what kind of competition we will face and we know what to expect based on the (results from the) previous competitions. These competitors have become like a family.
“The only competition you are up against is really yourself.”