Family tragedy unites cousins on the track

Golden arms: Grace Robinson and cousin Pita Toamotu dominated at the recent Australian Little Athletics Championships.Picture: Jane Dyson
Golden arms: Grace Robinson and cousin Pita Toamotu dominated at the recent Australian Little Athletics Championships.Picture: Jane Dyson

A FAMILY tragedy brought cousins Grace Robinson and Pita Toamotu closer.

Living among nine family members squeezed into their Penshurst home, the pair have returned from a successful Australian Little Athletics Championships in Hobart with a swag of medals.

Their athletic prowess was inspired by the death of Toamotu's dad, who he shares the same name with, from liver cancer when Toamotu junior was just eight months old.

Grace's dad Chris has raised his nephew as his own son.

"I bring them up as brother and sister," Chris said.

"They say they are cousins to people because they are very reserved."

Having already lived together before Pita senior's death, the family was already close.

But the tragedy united them more.

"It impacted on all of us massively," Chris said of the death of his brother-in-law.

"I'm very lucky though because he is such a good boy."

Grace, 13, and Pita, 12, started athletics aged six.

Grace, a Bethany College Hurstville student, holds the Australian under-13 shot put record and the under-11 discus record.

She threw 14.95 metres at the recent Australian championships to win gold.

Pita, a Marist College Kogarah student, matched his cousin by winning gold in discus and silver in shot put.

"They push each other," Chris said.

"What one is doing the other wants to do as well. There is a close but friendly rivalry.

"They've never been separated."

They train up to four times per week.

"They train full on for one year to get to this level," Chris said.

"Hopefully, they'll qualify for the World Junior Championships in the next couple of years and then, who knows, maybe one day the Olympics. They just love it."