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Tonga’s Taekwondo Olympian welcomed home

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NUKU’ALOFA-March 15: 12.15pm (Nuku’alofa Times/RNZI): Tonga’s Olympic-bound athlete Pita Taufatofua was given a hero’s welcome home yesterday as he returned home to continue his training for the Rio Games.

After winning his Olympic spot, Pita celebrates

After winning his Olympic spot, Pita celebrates

Taufatofua was welcomed by Government and family members as he touched down at Fua’amotu Airport.

The Speaker of Parliament, Lord Tu’ivakano and the Ministry of Internal Affairs were on hand to congratulate him for his recent achievement – where he qualified as Tonga’s first Taekwondo athlete for the Olympic Games.

Talking with Radio New Zealand International the lanky athlete said there is something special about the sport of taekwondo.

The 32-year-old won gold in the over 80kg class at last month’s Oceania Qualifying tournament in Australia to seal his place at the Rio Olympics.

It was the third time of trying for the Australian-based Tongan, who started learning taekwondo at the age of five and has been hooked ever since.

“There’s something about taekwondo which is once it’s in your blood it doesn’t go anywhere,” he said.

“There’s nowhere else in life I can experience the same challenge that taekwondo gives me: getting onto the mats; getting into the ring to fight somebody you don’t hate and whose sole purpose is to kick you in the head and your purpose is to kick them in the head.

“The emotional set you go through going into that is something I fear everytime but something I don’t experience anywhere else in life so it excites me being able to find those things which I fear and then walk towards them.”

With Lord Tu'ivakano and fellow Taekwondo athletes and officials of the Ministry of Internal Affairs. Photo: MIA Facebook

With Lord Tu’ivakano and fellow Taekwondo athletes and officials of the Ministry of Internal Affairs. Photo: MIA Facebook

Taufatofua said he believes he is capable of winning a medal in Rio later this year.

“One of the things I learnt from this whole experience is that the only way to succeed or achieve anything is to have absolute belief that you will,” he said.

“I have no doubt in my mind when I get on the mats I’m not going to leave anything behind and I have absolutely no dount that I will be in medal contention. As soon as I stop believing that there’s no need for me to go to the Olympics.”

Taufatofua will spend time in the country before returning to continue his preparation overseas before the Rio Games.


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