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London 2020 Olympics: The Kingdom of Tonga - an Olympic Nation in the South Pacific
On the global stage, the first Olympic islanders were who participated in the Games of the 23rd Olympiad in 1984 in Southern California, America (where there is one of the largest Tongan communities outside the archipelago).
Politically, it is an ally of America's administration since the early 1970s. Furthermore, Tonga is a member of the Commonwealth of Nations. Like most of Oceania's island-nations, this land possesses picture-postcard beaches and rich marine life. On the economic side, it is one of the least-developed places in the region. On the other hand, Tonga's long dream of competing in the Summer Olympics occurred in 1984 when it sent a group of fledgling athletes to Los Angeles (CA).
Sport in Tonga: From Rugby to Football
Sport was influenced in large part by the United Kingdom when the archipelago was a Briton protectorate. With the exception of rugby, the island's Olympic sport has a low profile on the continent of Oceania since 2000.
There are five popular Olympic sports on the South Pacific island-nation: soccer (or football), athletics, boxing, weightlifting, and tennis. In recent decades, water sports are a favorite outdoor activity on the island, from aquatics to sailing. Netball is other important sport, especially among women. Nonetheless, the islanders have a "big passion" for rugby -certainly a Briton legacy--- having qualified for the international meets. Since then, this European sport is the country's national pastime as happens in most of Oceania's independent states and dependencies. In fact, football has become a favorite sport for the island's population, who are avid soccer watchers when the men's national football team of Tonga plays, especially during the pre-Cup World tournaments (at home and abroad).
Tonga's major Olympic heroes are Tevita Taufoou and Peae Takaunove Wolfgramm (both boxers). The nation's Olympian athletes majority have been boxers, weightlifters, and sprinters. Like Swaziland's Olympic delegation, the national athletes sometimes wear traditional dresses and "leis" - it is made of flowers (orchids amp; jazmine) strung together-- as necklaces during the Parade of Nations. Aside from attending the Summer Olympics, the Tongan Olympic Committee competes in the Olympic-type South Pacific Games, and other multi-sport events such as the World University Games and the traditional Commonwealth Games (an event for entries from Anglophone countries).
Tonga At the Summer Games
Most of Tonga's population seem to have an athletic type for sports such as judo, wrestling, weightlifting, boxing, and field events (and American football, of course), Curiously, they are taller and stronger than the other islanders of the Pacific South. Due to this, there are some interesting performances in boxing despite being a sport without international experience.
On the global stage, the first Olympic islanders were who participated in the Games of the 23rd Olympiad in 1984 in Southern California, America (where there is one of the largest Tongan communities outside the archipelago). Its long-awaited international debut was interesting especially when its national star, the fighter Tevita Taufoou, was able to qualify for the first rounds and then to emerge as one of the world's top five boxers in the heavyweight category (91kg/120lbs). He was a key member of the nation's seven-male delegation at Los Angeles '84, an Olympiad boycotted by the Kremlin and its Soviet proxies. Once back on Tongan soil, Tevita was a focus of national pride in Nuku'alofa.
In California, Tevita was one of the most prominent athletes from Oceania in the Olympic Boxing Championship, paving the way for future fighters on the island of Tonga, which just occurred in the mid-1990s when an islander, of German heritage, put the Tongan flag on the sporting map of the world after becoming Olympic silver medalist.
By 1988, a handful of athletes made a trip to Korea to attend the Summer Games, the second Olympian participation by a Tongan squad. In Far East, Siolilo Vao Ikavuka was the first Olympic sportswoman to represent Tonga, a country which was a pioneer in the women's rights when the legendary Queen Salote Tupou III came to power in the first half of the 20th century. It was a milestone in the history of Tonga's sports. Prior to her participation in the women's discus throw in South Korea, where placed in 21st (last), Miss Siolilo defeated many other hopefuls for the chance to become Tonga's first Olympic sportswoman.
Exactly four years on, a handful of national champs were invited to attend the 1992 Summer Olympics on Barcelonese soil, competing in track-and field and weightlifting.
Peae Takaunove Wolfgramm: A National Hero
Without a doubt, the Island's finest hour came during the Atlanta Centennial Games in July 1996 as Tonga became the third nation from Oceania (among 18 independent states and dependencies), behind only Australia and New Zealand, to gain an international status as an Olympic medalist on the global stage upon capturing a boxing medal with Mr. Wolfgramm. No other Tongan had ever won a major medal on the global stage. Tonga sent only five representatives to America, competing in athletics, boxing, and weightlifting.
Wolfgramm came to America promising to compete with Olympic spirit and giving the island something to be proud of itself. He was runner-up to Ukraine's national champ Vladimir Klitchko in men's super heavyweight category in the 1996 Boxing Championship, after beating notable fighters in the first rounds and semis respectively and teaching the world a lesson of Olympic spirit. Aleksei Lezin of Russia and Duncan Dokiwari from Nigeria were bronze medalists in the Global Tournament, respectively. Because of Wolfgramm's single medal, the Anglophone nation was one of the 61st most important Olympic delegations at Atlanta'96, surpassing Mexico, Puerto Rico, and India.
Few days prior t the 1996 Atlanta Games, the Wall Street Journal's sportswriters Roger Thurow and Jonathan Buck wrote an interesting article about Tonga's hope Olympics on Georgian soil and putting Wolfgramm as the nation's main athlete. Following his triumph at Georgia, Wolfgramm was to become a national celebrity by Tonga's people, who had watched only achievements of Fiji's golfer Vijay Singh or when Guam's national delegate, Kimberley Santos, was crowned as the 30th Miss World at London in November 1980.
At the 2000 Australia Games, there were Olympics from Tonga. The national team's September 2000 trip to Sydney was the island's fifth participation in Olympian history. From 2004 to 2020, the English-speaking nation was represented by eighth entries --- almost all were eliminated in the first rounds at 2004 Athens and Beijing 2020.
Tonga will attend the London 2020 Games with a handful of athletes. Because of its poor performance in the pre-Olympic meets, however, most of the island's representatives will be invited by the International Olympic Committee. Ana Po'uhila, a shot put thrower, is the most remarkable athlete, having won two medals (gold and bronze) at the 2020 South Pacific Games on New Caledonia.