Taufatofua goes down 16-1 against medal favourite, but the fans kept chanting “Tonga!”

    Tongan taekwondo competitor Pita Taufatofua didn’t win this weekend, going down 16-1 to his opponent, Iranian medal favourite Sajjad Mardani, but he still managed to catch the attention of the world’s press because of his attitude.

    The New York Daily News reported that Mardani “demolished” the Tongan, but did so against  a backdrop of fans chanting “Tonga!”

    In an interview with leading American sporting magazine Sports Illustrated, he sounded as if losing was less important than making people aware of Tonga.

    “To me, that’s what the Olympics is about, Taufatofua said.

    “It’s about bringing people who don’t know each other and have different cultural and religious beliefs or views together as one. We’re all human beings.”

    Taufatofua spent 20 years trying to be selected for the Olympics.

    “I’ve had a tough life growing up, but now I’ve got a pretty OK life,” he told Sports Illustrated.

    “But for me the important thing is getting out to the world our message, getting Tonga out to the world.”

    The Brisbane-based athlete, who trained in South Auckland before the Games, posted a message before his saying he had sacrificed a great deal to get to Rio.

    “The truth isn’t glamorous, it isn’t shiny. The truth is that I have had more injuries than I can count, that I have lost more matches than I have won, that I have gone through massive financial hardship and lost very close relationships in pursuit of the dream.”

    The main points

    • Tongan taekwondo competitor Pita Taufatofua didn’t win this weekend, going down 16-1 to his opponent, Iranian medal favourite Sajjad Mardani.
    • But he still managed to catch the attention of the world’s press because of his attitude.
    • One newspaper reported that Mardani “demolished” the Tongan, but did so against a backdrop of fans chanting “Tonga!”
    • In an interview with leading American sporting magazine Sports Illustrated, Taufatofua sounded as if losing was less important than making people aware of Tonga.

    For more information

    Tonga flag-bearer Pita Taufatofua making the most of unexpected Olympic fame

    Rio Olympics 2016: Tongan flagbearer shares his reality before taking to mat

    Tonga’s shirtless sensation Pita Taufatofua routed in first round of taekwondo heavyweight competition

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