Tonga’s Winter Olympian concerned about his sister’s safety

Tonga’s Winter Olympian Bruno Banani’s sister claims he is desperately worried about her safety as she travels to Russia to watch him compete.

Bruno Banani, 25, is the first Tongan athlete to qualify for the Winter Olympics.

He is competing in the luge, a downhill sled event.

Speaking before she left for Sochi, Atela Semi said Bruno was ‘desperate’ when he found out she was going to Sochi by herself.

 “I hope and pray that everything will be fine with my trip as I have not travelled to these countries before,” she said.

Semi, 23, said she was not confident of travelling by herself when she found out that Tonga Association of Sporting Associations and Olympic Committee (TASANOC) officials had already left for Sochi, where the Games are being held.

She said she had to go as her brother really wanted her to watch him compete in the luge.

Banani’s family in Tonga and in New Zealand blasted TASNOC executives, saying they neglected Semi’s travel process and left everything until the last minute.

“We have to send Atela because this is a milestone for our family and we need one of us to attend Bruno’s game,” a family member told Kaniva News.

“We feel we were disrespectfully treated by TASANOC.”

Semi’s visa was approved with the help of the Tongan consulate in Auckland only hours before she left for Sochi

She said TASANOC said it would fund everything for her travel, but she was not given any pocket money. She said her family in New Zealand had to provide it for her.

She is not accredited to official occasions and activities during the Winter Games in Sochi.

However, TASANOC’s General Secretary, Takitoa Taumoepeau said  there had been a lot of misunderstanding by members of Tonga Luge about the process of accrediting someone to the Games.

Taumoepeau said Banani’s family had changed its mind about who was going to represent them at the Games, which had made things difficult.

“Originally the arrangement was for Bruno's dad to go, but that did not happen,” Taumoepeau said.

“They proposed Atela and Bruno's brother, Taniela but there wasn’t enough money and getting accreditation at that late stage was difficult.

“It was just an acknowledgement by Tonga Luge to send a member of Bruno's family, but they could opt to stay if it ended up this way.”

Funding for travel to the Games was partly funded by the Tongan Government, TASANOC and Tonga Luge.

Four Tongan team members will be at the Games. They are: the Chef de Mission, Mathias Ihle, coach Isabel Barchinski, administrator Leafa and Banani.

Ihle removed her name from accreditation as she will only be a spectator, so it was easier to arrange for her visa application.

Taumoepeau said critics misunderstood the situation when more Tongan officials than team members travelled overseas.

He said the arrangements for team members were covered by International Olympic Committee Rule 38, which covers transport, accommodation and other costs.

 “Other members fund their own travel and that is why they are not counted in the team,”  Taumoepeau said.

“They are outside IOC Rule 38, but still able to attend.”

Tonga’s first winter athlete

Bruno Banani, 25, is the first Tongan athlete to qualify for the Winter Olympics.

Banani, who was born Fuahea Semi, will compete in the luge.

A luge is a small sled on which the competitor lies face up while travelling downhill at speeds of up to 140 kilometres per hour.

It is considered the most dangerous of the sledding sports.

He attempted to qualify for the luge events at the 2010 Winter Olympics but failed.

He did, however, qualify to take part in the FIL World Luge Championships in 2011 where he was eliminated after the first run with a time of 56.698.

In December 2013, he qualified for the luge event at the 2014 Winter Olympics.

Banani is not the only Winter Olympian from a country where snow is unknown.

According to the BBC, other Winter Olympians in Sochi will include contenders from East Timor, Thailand and Jamaica.

The main points

  • Tonga’s Winter Olympian Bruno Banani’s sister claims he is desperately worried about her safety as she travels to Russia to watch him compete.
  • Speaking before she left for Sochi, Ateli Semi said Bruno was ‘desperate’ when he found out she was going to Sochi by herself.
  • She said she had to go as her brother really wanted her to watch him compete in the luge.
  • A family member told Kaniva News: “We have to send Atela because this is a milestone for our family and we need one of us to attend Bruno’s game.”
  • However, TASANOC’s General Secretary, Takitoa Taumoepeau said  Banani’s family had changed its mind about who was going to represent them at the Games had made things difficult.

More information

The Flying Coconut, Banani debuts, Unlikely contenders at the Winter Olympics, Olympic Charter

About The Author

Sometimes when a business is growing, it needs a little help.

Right now Kaniva News provides a free, politically independent, bilingual news service for readers around the world that is absolutely unique. We are the largest New Zealand-based Tongan news service, and our stories reach Tongans  wherever they are round the world. But as we grow, there are increased demands on Kaniva News for translation into Tongan on our social media accounts and for the costs associated with expansion. We believe it is important for Tongans to have their own voice and for Tongans to preserve their language, customs and heritage. That is something to which we are strongly committed. That’s why we are asking you to consider sponsoring our work and helping to preserve a uniquely Tongan point of view for our readers and listeners.

spot_imgspot_imgspot_imgspot_img

Latest news

Related news