Tonga’s poor support for its athletes and lack of Games success “so sad,” says silver medallist

He won Tonga’s only silver medal, but he despairs that it will ever happen again.

He says Tonga is almost dead in the water at the Olympics, let down by administrators who have stayed in power for decades, but won’t support the kingdom’s athletes.

He’s Paea Wolfgramm, who won silver for Tonga in the boxing ring at the Olympics in 1996.

Now, 20 years after the Atlanta Games, he looks back on his boxing career, offers his thoughts on how Tonga could move forward in international competition and says that it is unlikely his children will get into the fight game because they got bored with it when they were young.

And no, he wouldn’t have appeared at the Olympics topless and covered in oil.

Wolfgramm was speaking to Kaniva News founder Kalino Lātū:

KL: Are you sad there has not been a Tongan boxer at the Olympics since Doug Viney (Ma’afu Hawke) in 2004? 

PW: Yes I’m gutted. It is as if Atlanta had never happened.  We have continued doing the same thing hoping for a different result.  In terms of Olympics we have continued to play it like a lottery where we do the bare minimum for our athletes and hope that our numbers will come up and another Paea Wolfgramm will come along.

How often do we win the lottery twice? It is the reason why our athletes face change, but our Olympic administrators have stayed the same for the past 20 years.  In fact, in my time we struggled a bit but today we are almost dead in the water.  It is so sad as we go forward to 2019.

Since 2006 I have called for TASANOC and the Government to create a purposeful rewarding pathway for our athletes to aspire to.  I even submitted a paper to them and they listened politely, agreed to it and have done nothing since.

KL: I am intrigued that you stopped fighting when you did. You had 20 wins and four losses, which was a good record. Did it just get tougher as the fights went on?

PW:  My amateur record was 20-3 and professional record was 20-4. My professional contract was only for five years and at the time I had promised my wife and mother – who weren’t too keen on me taking it up as a career  – that I would  only fight professionally for that period with no extension whatever the outcome.

KL: You lost three out of your last five fights, but the referee stopped the last fight in the last round. Whose decision was it to quit? Do you ever regret it?

PW:  I didn’t intend to go pro, but straight after the Olympics I had promoters knocking on my door and it wasn’t an opportunity you get offered every day.  So I took my chances and it was definitely an experience I will never regret. I’m glad that I had five years of it and came out relatively undamaged as boxing can be an unforgiving sport.

KL: Have you considered making a comeback?

PW:  As I said, I had promised never to go back after my five year stint and it was not hard for me because I had other things prior to boxing.  I can understand how some boxers can stay in the game far too long because they have done nothing else.  Although I miss some of the people, I have never thought about going back.

KL: Would you like any of your children to go into the fight game?

PW: No, I left it up to my kids, but I think they got bored with it as they grew up around it.

KL: You were the Tongan flag bearer at the Olympic Games in Atlanta in 1996. Did you consider going topless and being covered in oil?

PW: No, it was never considered. The officials were pretty strict in maintaining the molumalu of our flag. We weren’t even allowed to wear the flag around our shoulders at the fights or other sporting events, but that said, I think Pita brought a lot of attention to Tonga. I would have liked it if we were recognised for our achievement instead, but I guess that’s where we are at the moment.

The main points

  • Tonga is dead in the water at the Olympics, silver medal winning boxer Paea Wolfgramm said today.
  • In an interview with Kaniva News he said Tonga’s sporting administrators were letting down the kingdom’s athletes.
  • In the interview he looked back on his boxing career and offered his thoughts on how Tonga could move forward in international competition.
  • He said he quit boxing to fulfil a promise to his wife and mother.

For more information

The day Muhammed Ali gave Tongan boxing champ Wolfgramme a word of advice

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