March 17, 2014 Los Angeles, CA– A representative of the Tonga Luge Federation announced today that Bruno
Banani, the pioneering Olympic luger will be stopping in Los Angeles on March 18th for a week’s visit en route to his celebratory Tongan homecoming on March 26th, after having successfully competed in the
2014 Sochi Winter Olympic Games. This marks the first time that a native of the South Pacific island Kingdom of Tonga has ever participated in the Winter Games.
His success story started back in December 2008, when the Tongan Royal family set up a competition to find the country’s first winter sports athlete. His competitors at the Winter Games already had many years of experience as a luger than he did when the 21 year-old first stepped into the snow and tried out the luge for the very first time. Bruno’s athletic efforts of great determination and passion for the sport that he grew to love in only five years culminated in his noteworthy appearance at Sochi, where he placed #32 best luger in the world out of 110 competitors, beating Australia’s Alexander Ferlazzo in the Luge Men’s Singles. Fashionable in the games as well, his tropic-inspired Olympic outfits designed by the international fashion designer ‘Bogner’ were a global sensation and was voted as one of the Top Five Best Winter Olympics uniform in history. Louise Waterhouse, who has been assisting the Kingdom of Tonga for almost 20 years in her role as Hon Consul in Australia, said “The Tongan Olympic Committee are thrilled to have such an exciting relationship with Bogner and are very grateful for the support of Willy Bogner – who was awarded the coveted Tongan Order of the Crown when he and his wife Sonia were official guests at the Coronation on his Late Majesty King George Tupou V in 2008. The colourful Bogner designs are quite fabulous
and capture the unique Tongan Pacific Island Spirit!”
Bruno has garnered a bronze medal during the World Cup the America-Pacific Luge Championship in Calgary, Canada in 2011 and also qualified for the FIL World Luge Championships in 2012, by finishing eighteenth in the qualifiers. Simultaneously, he was continuing to train with the German luge team, including three time Olympic gold medalist Georg Hackl and gold medalist Felix Loch, with an aim to qualify for the 2014 Winter Olympics. Bruno’s colossal accomplishments in a short period of time have paved the road for future
Tongan Olympic athletes. Leafa Mataele Wawryk, who walked with Bruno during the Opening Ceremonies in Sochi confirmed that they will be recruiting more Tongan athletes- two more young men and one female to train them for the upcoming 2018 Peongchang Winter Olympics.
Bruno’s trip to Los Angeles will be his first time in California and he is looking forward to some relaxation. Or, as he put it, “I want to go to Disneyland and Hollywood.” Mostly though, he just can’t wait to arrive back in Tonga to see his family. “I want to celebrate and thank the country and its people for the support that helped me achieve my goal to represent Tonga in the Winter Olympic Games and just enjoy the sun at the beach”, said the Olympian, capturing the celebratory spirit of the moment and of his nation.
Press Release Provided By: Tonga Luge Federation