Pacific News Minute: Fiji and Singapore Celebrate 1st Gold Medals; Tonga Preps for 2018 Winter Games

Aug 15, 2016

Credit Wikipedia Commons

Celebrations continue in Suva and Singapore, after Fiji's Rugby Seven and swimmer Joseph Schooling won gold medals at the Olympic Games in Rio De Janeiro.  That's the first gold for Singapore and the first medal of any kind for Fiji.  As we hear from Neal Conan in the Pacific News Minute, Tonga has medal hopes for the Winter Games, two years from now.

That's right…the winter games.  No, it does not snow in Tonga and yes, the first thought that crosses everyone's mind, is the Jamaican bobsled team.  But the Secretary General of the Royal Tonga Ski Federation says this is not another Cool Runnings. "We do not want to be called the novelty team, " Leafa Mataele Wawryk told Radio New Zealand, "We want people to take us seriously and we want everywhere in the world to respect us."

Tonga won admission to the International Ski Federation last month and four Tongan athletes are training to hit the slopes in South Korea in 2018.  "I believe we have some athletes than can win medals," Leafa Mataele Wawryk said, "It's absolutely crazy to think we can do this, but we can."

Tonga's first winter athlete debuted two years ago in Sochi.  Bruno Banani participated in the men's luge, finishing well behind the leaders and causing come controversy.  According to the Sydney Morning Herald, marketers persuaded him to change his name...he was born Fuahea Semi...and concocted a story that he just happened to have the same name as a German retailer that sells racy lingerie. "It was a very hard thing for me to change my name," he told the newspaper, "but that's how I got the money to do the luge."

The international Olympic Committee was not amused; Vice President Thomas Bach said the sponsored name change was "in bad taste." These days, the Luger prefers to be known just as Bruno, and he hopes to make it to South Korea, too.