Tonga luge athlete set for Olympic trial | Pacific Beat

Tonga luge athlete set for Olympic trial

Tonga luge athlete set for Olympic trial

Updated 13 February 2013, 17:35 AEDT

Tonga could have its first luge athlete at the Winter Olympics next year.


At first it was reported as a hoax, then it was uncovered as a sneaky marketing ploy, now it seems Tonga could have its first Luge athlete at the Winter Olympics next year.

The man now known as Bruno Banani shares his name with a German underwear brand and has been training with the German luge team.

The deal was brokered after Fuahea Semi agreed to change his name in return for expert advice from Luge super-power Germany.

Since starting in the sport he has qualified for international competitions and won Bronze at the 2011 America-Pacific Luge Championships in Calgary, Canada.

In ten days Banani competes in the Olympic qualifying rounds at the World Luge Cup in Sochi, Russia, the site of the 2014 Winter Olympics.

Presenter:Geraldine Coutts

Speaker:Bruno Banani, Tonga luge competitor



BANANI: So far now I'm in the right position to qualify. Qualifiers need I think to be in the top 38 to qualify. I'm now in 29th position, so hopefully it will stay like that and then it will be good.
COUTTS: Now are there still things you need to do to absolutely qualify for next year's Winter Olympics?
BANANI: Yeah, I just have to be better than now or in the same position and keep it like that.
COUTTS: How have you managed to get to 29th in the world?
BANANI: I have been on training so hard to do my best and then today I have been down and qualified for some competition, Nations Cup or World Cup so yeah, that's how I got to this position where I am.
COUTTS: And have you seen the movie, "Cool Running" because you're taking a leaf out of that movie, you're emulating what's happened in that movie, aren't you? Have you seen that movie?
BANANI: Yeah, I actually I watched the movie on the first time when I started doing this and I was still thinking of myself. This is like more like the same story. But somehow, mine is a little bit harder or something like that.
COUTTS: How is it that a man from Tonga, a tropical island in the middle of the Pacific, gets to be competing in the Luge possibly and the first Tongan ever?
BANANI: Yes, in Tonga, I wanted to be in a Winter sport, yeah you know we're all just in there for summer sport, but yeah, some want to be in the winter sport and I have no idea why they choose Luge, but they announce they are looking in Tonga looking for someone likely to try to do luge and I thought yeah why not give it a try and yeah, when I went there in Tonga and then they picked me yeah to enlist in the tournament.
COUTTS: Is it a single Luge, are you by yourself or the double or the quads?
BANANI: I'm doing the single ones, so just the only one.
COUTTS: Alright, and what's been the response at home in Tonga with you doing so well?
BANANI: Oh, it's not that much, but I think most of the people back in Tonga they're really happy about it, what I'm doing and they just support me. Yeah, it's not that much that the people really. I don't know whether they are interested in this thing or they just don't know.
COUTTS: What's a typical day for you Bruno in your training and your diet to try and get to the Winter Olympics?
BANANI: Training, is like Monday and Friday. The diet is not, sorry is not strict, I can eat anything, whatever the change is not very much. I think I can burn all the calories and stuff like that, so I don't have to really care about diet, at least I eat something healthy, but it's not very strict that I have to eat this and not that, but it's just that the training that I have to do everyday morning and the afternoon from Monday to Friday and, of course, the competition season, then the competition is always on Saturday and Sunday.
COUTTS; Who picked you to try out for the Luge?
BANANI: There was this group of people from here, from Germany who came over to Tonga to help the Tongan committee to look for someone to do this and that's this woman, my coach gave me the opportunity and she was the one she did it to at Tonga village and she was the one to find out who would be the right candidate to do this.
COUTTS: How do you try out in Tonga in the tropics, where there's not one snowflake in sight for the Luge?
BANANI: Yeah. we just have a fitness test and we slide down a little hill at the main island of Tongatavu. It was just they came over with some slides, we could slide in the street and some people we slide down a small hill in the main island in Tonga. So it was the only thing that we do to test us first. And I think I was the only one who a little bit be better than the others.
COUTTS: Can you remember what it was like when you first went down a real Luge shoot?
BANANI: Yes, I do remember. I think that day I won't forget, yeah, the first time I slide down in the real Luge track  and the ice.
I started in a really low position on the track so it wasn't really that fast, that when I slide down, it was really fun for me. I wanted to redo it again and again, because it was just so much fun, so fast, compared to this small hill that we slide in Tonga. So for me it was just fun, so I like it and said OK, I'll just keep doing this and always wanted to go up everyday so I could get more speed, go faster. I love speed, I love like speed really fast.
COUTTS: Have you had any crashes?
BANANI: Yes, quite a lot. Sometime now, lately, I haven't really had a bad one, but 2010, I was one time crash and woke up in the hospital. It's the biggest one I had, but so far, I'm seeing I start to get the experience and how to trial walls and the tracks It's not so often now for me to crash.
COUTTS: And where are you based?
BANANI: Well, I'm at Germany.
COUTTS; In Germany?
BANANI: That's where I train.
COUTTS: How long since you've been home to Tonga?
BANANI: I left home in August, last year, and I haven't been back. I just can't wait for the season to be finished so I can go back and see my family.


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