Weightlifter Erika Ropati-Frost (nee Yamasaki) was crowned 53kg overall champion, after she stormed to victory to beat Papua New Guinea champion lifter Dika Toua in the snatch event.
The smiling 28-year-old said the competition was one of the highlights of her career.
“It’s definitely right next to the bronze from Melbourne 2006 Commonwealth Games, it’s very special.
“I couldn’t hold the tears back. To win the first gold for Australia at the Pacific Games is an absolute honour, it’s overwhelming.”
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, tactics.
“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.”
In front of a passionate home crowd Toua suffered three unsuccessful lifts in the snatch, only to come back on the platform for the clean and jerk and lift a huge 110 kilograms, more than double her body weight. While Ropati-Frost lifted 97kg on her first attempt and was unsuccessful on 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.
“The crowd was fantastic, one of the best crowds I’ve ever competed in front of.
“PNG did a good job getting the crowd in, it looked sold out and had a great vibe.”
Earlier in the day fellow Queenslander Mary Barter kicked off Australia’s inaugural event in style, with three silver medals in the 48kg division; snatch, clean and jerk and overall.
The Games is the 27-year-old’s first international competition, after she took up the sport a year and a half ago.
“This has been fantastic, the best experience ever,” Barter said.
“I thought I was going to cry when I saw the Australian flag going up.
“I was hunting for a medal, probably bronze, but then I just got out there and it was amazing.”
Looking on in the crowd was Barter’s step-father who lives in Port Moresby and her sister who had flown in from Brisbane.
“It was great to have them here cheering me on. I’m very lucky.”
A policewoman, Barter took up weightlifting after she excelled at CrossFit.
“I’m just going to follow weightlifting through because I want to see what my potential is.”
Both Barter and Ropati-Frost will now look towards the World Championships in Houston, Texas, in November.
Nine Australian athletes will compete in sailing and weightlifting on Monday, day two of the Pacific Games.