Tonga Sends First Winter Olympics Qualifier To Sochi

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Bruno Banani to compete at luge

MELBOURNE, Australia (Radio Australia, Feb. 3, 2014) – The Pacific nation of Tonga has sent its first ever representative to a Winter Olympics.

Bruno Banani will be competing in the luge at Sochi.

The 24-year-old changed his name from Fuahea Semi to that of a German clothing brand in 2008.

He became a marketing hit for the company when he began training in luge after a recruitment drive in Tonga.

Banani failed to qualify for the 2010 Olympics, but has trained hard to get to this year's Games.

He says he's had a lot of support and not just from Tongans.

"I also have a lot of messages from different people around the Pacific who are very happy with what I'm doing," he told Radio Australia's Pacific Beat.

"I'm just trying now to be more focused in my training... because there's also a bit of pressure on me knowing that there are so many people behind me."

Banani says he's very happy to have achieved his goal of qualifying for the Olympics, which he says made a Christmas at home special.

"When I found out that I qualified, my Dad knows, my family, they were so happy and then I went home for Christmas (and) we were not just celebrating Christmas, we were also celebrating me qualifying for the Olympics."

He says while he'd like to make it to the top 25 or 30 competitors in the luge at Sochi, for now he's happy to soak up the experience of being at a Winter Olympics.

"I know the limits that I've had up until now. I still have more training to do to get more experience so that I can compete with the higher levels of athletes."

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