Tonga Celebrates Homecoming Of First Winter Olympian

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Pleased with performance, luger Bruno Banani finished 32 out of 39

MELBOURNE, Australia (Radio Australia, Feb. 24, 2014) – Tonga is set to celebrate the homecoming of its first winter Olympian at the close of the Winter Olympics in Sochi.

Making history, Bruno Banani finished 32nd in a field of 39 in the individual men's luge event.

The former rugby league player told Pacific Beat he was pleased with his performance.

"Even though before the race I had a goal to be in the top 30, I knew it would be kind of hard to get," he said.

"After the third round I made it to the top 30, then I made a little mistake on the last run and that pushed me back two places.

Six years ago, Banani was picked to represent Tonga as its first winter Olympian, practicing down Tongatapu's only hill.

He was then invited to train in Germany where he learned the sport in a less tropical climate.

While there, in a bid to gain sponsorship, he became the subject of a marketing campaign by a German underwear manufacturer and oddly adopted the brand name as his own.

Banani said he has enjoyed his time competing in Sochi, however, one of the best moments of the Games was carrying the flag for his country.

"It's a moment I will never forget, it was overwhelming for me," he said.

"Walking, knowing that I finally made it to the Olympics and represent my country. It was just amazing."

Banani said he is still considering whether he will compete in the 2018 Games in South Korea, but is looking forward to seeing his family to celebrate when he returns to his home island of Eua next month.

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