Tonga team stunned by the gold medal

Tonga is celebrating after sprinter Tomasi Ma’asi, 21, won a gold medal in the 400m title in the Special Olympics at the Hunter Sports Centre in Newcastle on December 3.

Special Olympics is the world's largest sports organization for children and adults with intellectual disabilities, providing year-round training and competitions. 

Ma’asi won the finals in the 400m run with 1 min 5.61 sec, while Pauli Mahe came in sixth in the same event with a time of 1min 20.30sec on the second day of the competition.

Team Tonga’s Head of Delegation Vanessa Heleta talked to Vinnie Wylie of Radio New Zealand International about the team’s  success that came as something of a surprise.

“We came with the expectation of just participation and getting these guys out of the country and to a new environment to engage and get to know other athletes from other cultures. We didn’t expect any medals at all, let alone a gold one”.

“Everyone was feeling his medal last night and he slept with his gold medal around his neck last night. And this morning I told him he has to take it off at some point, like going to have a shower. (Laughs)”


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