Government failed to pay up but athletes still did well

Lord Sevele (right) with Sakapo Lolohea (left) and boxing's golden boy John Moleni who won gold medal at the Mini Games in December at the awards day. Photo: NUKU'ALOFA TIMES

NUKU’ALOFA – January 3, 2018: 10.42am (Nuku’alofa Times): Government failed to live up to their promise to pay all airfares for Team Tonga to the Pacific Mini Games in Vanuatu in December 2017.

This was revealed to Times Sport during the Tonga Association of Sports and National Olympic Committee (TASANOC) awards to winners at the Tonga National Centre in Tofoa in December.

Acting TASANOC President Lord Sevele said Government paid one charter and the payment was received late.

Government also only advised TASANOC two days before the scheduled first charter flight to Port Vila, where the Games was held.

“It was disappointing,” he said.

“But we got on and made sure that we had the flights and the athletes were on that to Vanuatu for the Games.”

Lord Sevele also confirmed that they had to work with other partners and stakeholders to ensure that Team Tonga was able to spend the duration of the Games at the Games Village and were also able to return home by charter flight.

“We are thankful to all those who assisted us,” he added.

Team Tonga won four gold medals from the event – a feat Team Chef de Mission Dr  ‘Amanaki Fakakovikaetau was possible because the athletes did not lose focus.

“We worked hard behind the scene to ensure that we were able to have what was needed for the athletes and did not want to tell the athletes what was happening,” he said.

“And we are happy with the results we obtained from the 10 sports that were able to make it.”

Judo, boxing and athletics (2) won gold medals for Tonga at the Games.

“This is the start. We can now work on what we have seen and improve on that,” he said.

The four gold medallists for Tonga at the 2017 Mini Games with Lord Sevel, Hon Fanetupouvavau and Onetoto from Sports at the awards day. Photo: NUKU'ALOFA TIMES

The four gold medallists for Tonga at the 2017 Mini Games with Lord Sevel, Hon Fanetupouvavau and Onetoto from Sports at the awards day. Photo: NUKU’ALOFA TIMES

Dr ‘Amanaki said weightlifting is a sport that Tonga will need to work on to ensure more medals at future events.

“There are three individual medals for weightlifters during and that counts for those who do well in the sport,” he said.

“This is something we will need to work on in the future.”

The inclusion of former ‘IKale Tahi captain and professional rugby player Inoke Afeaki is also paying dividends, Dr ‘Amanaki said.

“We can identify what we need to do with Inoke and he is helping a lot,” he said.

“Now we need to build on that and move forward.”

Lord Sevele, who had to pull strings through his contacts to ensure that Team Tonga was firmly on the ground financially, said TASANOC has some areas that it will work on moving forward.

He was disappointed with the government’s failure to live up to their promise, especially since Government had given a lot towards the recent Mate Ma’a Tonga campaign at the Rugby League World Cup.

This week’s sports awards was to honour all the medal winners and is something that TASANOC hopes to build on.

“This is the first and we will work on making this an annual event,” TASANOC Secretary General Takitoa Taumoepeau said.

“We need to honour our athletes and build on this.”

Tonga won 4 gold, 4 silver and 11 bronze from the Vanuatu Games.

Athletes and teams were also awarded cash prizes of $300 for the bronze winners, $500 for the silver winners and $1,000 for the gold medallists.



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