Professional rugby athlete, Fetu’u Vainikolo, made history when the Exeter Chiefs of England won their first Anglo-Welsh Silver Cup, better known as the LV cup. The best part of it was having his 8-year-old daughter present to witness and celebrate his team’s victory. What an accomplishment it is for the Tongan native who grew up on an island with big dreams and raised with five other siblings by their single mother. Since then, Vainikolo has played rugby for several clubs and tournaments, including Super Rugby and ITM (National Provincial Championship), throughout New Zealand, Australia, Ireland, Tonga, and now England. As a former Ikale Tahi player, his time at the World Cup was his best professional experience yet and is very grateful for the opportunity. The proud father of two enjoys his current time with the Chiefs because it embodies family values that help him on and off the field. As the season comes close to an end, Vainikolo takes some time to share a few stories with TWID after an intense training session.
TWID: What has been one of the best teams you have been on and why?
VAINIKOLO: It has to be Tonga’s Ikale Tahi team. I grew up in Tonga and always saw it around me. I told myself one day I want to wear the red jersey. I became a big fan of the New Zealand All Blacks when I moved there and looked up to Jonah Lomu as an idol. I had a chance to play against Tana Umaga. I wanted a spot as an All Black player, but I realized I wasn’t hungry enough for it. There were a lot of personal experiences outside of rugby that were in the way of me trying to reach that goal. In 2011, I decided to leave New Zealand and I played for Tonga at the World Cup. It was the best team I ever played for and I loved it. It was a dream come true to put on the red jersey.
TWID: If you weren’t playing rugby, what would you do?
VAINIKOLO: One of my dreams was to become a cop. I always wanted to do something good to help people and make my mom proud.
TWID: When are you the most nervous while you are competing?
VAINIKOLO: I’m always nervous once the jersey comes on. But when I step onto the field, all the anxiety goes out the window and I focus my energy on the game.
TWID: Describe an embarrassing athletic moment.
VAINIKOLO: It was back in my Super Rugby days, we played against a team from Australia. During the game, one of my teammates got into a fight and I decided to throw a couple cheap shots. Members of the other team saw me and I started running, but my shoes came off and they all jumped on top of me. I didn’t give it much thought until I went home after the game and everyone was hitting me up about it.
TWID: How do you tend to workout/train?
VAINIKOLO: Most of the time I train with the team. We train 5 days a week. There are only a few games left in the season. I still have to train during off season because no one wants to be the first one walking when season starts again; it’s not a good look. Even though it’s break, we still have to keep the fitness level up, so we’re ready to go once preseason comes around.
TWID: How does your family support you in your career?
VAINIKOLO: My brothers used to play rugby. They support me, especially my Mom. She would do anything just to watch me play when I was younger. We didn’t have much so whatever my mom could provide us with, that’s what we had. My mom still made the effort to come see me play rugby no matter where I was. My brothers would get mad because she would only go to my games and not theirs. There’s a side of the wall at her house where there are pictures of just me, and my brothers would get mad at that too and put up their pictures. Back in the day, my mom always got me my rugby shoes, which were really expensive, so I would make good use of them. Then I got sponsored by Nike and I was getting shoes all the time, so my mom’s hard work paid off. I know she is proud of how far I’ve come.
TWID: What is your favorite food?
VAINIKOLO: Lu Sipi, but on this side of the world I always go to KFC. I’ve tried it in Australia and America, but I reckon the best KFC in the world is in South Aukland, New Zealand.
TWID: What is the best compliment you have ever received?
VAINIKOLO: Keep up the good work, you’re doing a good job with your daughter.
Fetu’u Vainikolo is proof that his athletic career is strengthened by his responsibilities as a father. The humble sportsman is beyond thankful for his children and claims he would not make it as far as he has come without their love, support, and influence. With hard work and determination, there is no doubt that success is what Vainikolo will continue to strive for. We acknowledge your consistency and drive to live out your dreams for you and your family. All the best to you, Fetu’u. What you represent is WhatItDo.
Article Written By: Sina Uipi