Naufahu Skeen upbeat despite early World Champs exit

‘Oku fakatetu’a lelei pe ‘a e tangata sikī Tonga ko ia ko Kasete Naufahu Skeen neongo e tu’utu’uni tōmui ‘o liliu ke ‘oua ‘e kau he fe’auhi ‘a e kau saieniti ‘i he fe’auhi ko ia fakamāmani Alpine World Ski Champs. Na’e fika 107 ‘i he kau fe’uhi ‘e toko 108 ‘a tangata ta’u 36 he fe’uhi ‘anepoo’ ‘i he kolo ko ia ko ‘Ale’i Suēteni.

by Radio New Zealand

Tongan skier Kasete Naufahu Skeen is staying positive despite a late rule change denying him a place in the men’s giant slalom main race at the Alpine World Ski Champs.

The 36-year-old finished 107th of 108 competitors who completed both runs in the qualification race in Åre, Sweden overnight, with 12 of the original starters failing to finish.

Kasete Naufahu Skeen about to start his first run.

Kasete Naufahu Skeen about to start his first run. Photo: Royal Tonga Ski Federation

The top 50 finishers automatically qualified for the main World Championships race on Friday.

A further 25 spots in the main race were originally reserved for skiers from countries, such as Tonga, that have only one representative at the event but officials changed the criteria after the race.

“Unfortunately they have changed the qualification criteria at the last minute and I have been counted out,” he said.

“After the race they decided to base the criteria on FIS points rather than the result of the qualification race. That means that I along with several other competitors from smaller nations can no longer take part in the final race.”

Skeen was 109th in the first run, in a time of 1 minute 36.96 seconds, and 107th in the second in 1 minute 40.33.

His overall time was 65 seconds adrift of the race winner, 18 year old Swede Axel Lindqvist, but he did manage to cross the finish line ahead of 55 year old Haitian Jean-Pierre Roy.

It marks an improvement for the London-born athlete, who failed to complete both runs on his World Championship debut two years ago and only returned to the slopes in December following 14 months out with injury.

“In St Moritz (two years ago) I crashed out on the second run after hitting a huge bump and I found myself in a similar position halfway down the course today and I had a bit of a flashback to St Moritz,” he reflected.

“I kind of told myself this isn’t going to happen again, I’m going to make it down to the end and I did so that’s the kind of positives that I’m taking away from today. It wasn’t necessarily my best result but it was a good finish for me today and I’ll take confidence from that.”

“I achieved what I set out to achieve and the fact that they changed the qualification critera just at the last minute doesn’t detract from the fact that I made the goal that was originally set out before me,” Skeen said.

“I’m happy with what I’ve done – it’s a shame not to be starting tomorrow but I’m pleased to have represented Tonga.”

This article is republished under the Kaniva Tonga’s content partnership with Radio New Zealand.

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