Tomba from Tonga goes skiing in Val di Fiemme
Polynesia goes skiing in Val di Fiemme
The Olympic dream of a skier from the Kingdom of Tonga - sponsored by Vist - is skiing in Pampeago to work out for the upcoming Alpine World Ski Championships St. Moritz.
“Tomba from Tonga”, this is the nickname of the 34-year-old skier from the Kingdom of Tonga Kasete Naufahu Skeen who, to achieve his Olympic dream, has been working out on the ski slopes of Val di Fiemme, in Trentino, since January 10th. His story calls back Kwame Nkrumah-Acheampong's, the “Snow Leopard" from Ghana who had trained on the same slopes to get qualified for the Oympic Games of Turin 2006 and Vancouver 2010, thanks to the Tourism Office Val di Fiemme and Vist different sponsorships.
If Kwame was the first athlete to represent Ghana at the Olympic Games, Kasete intends to be the first one from Tonga, the tiny insular country of Polynesia. His goal are the qualifications to the Winter Olympic Games Pyeongchang 2018, in South Korea. In the meantime, he has succeedeed in getting qualified to the Alpine World Ski Championships St. Moritz, 6th-19th February 2017. His coach is a former coach of the Italian team, Hermann Aigner, from the South Tyrol.
Born in 1982 in London - his father is from Tonga, his mother from the UK - Kasete wore a pair of skis in Kitzbüel for the first time. He was 12 and he had never thought that one day this sport would turn his life upside down, yearning for the Olympic Games to represent his isle in the middle of nowhere in the Pacific Ocean.
Kasete's dream took off when in its latest congress, Fis added his country as its affiliated nation. His sport adventure began last September, when he left his employment as manager at the Opera Holland Park of London to move to the Alps.
Val di Fiemme has hosted him for his workouts in the 48 kilometer of the Ski Center Latemar, while Vist has sponsored him. Vist is the famous ski equipment and fashion clothing for skiing and leisure time of Caldaro (in the ski competitions, Vist is the official sponsor of the Russian Alpine Ski Federation, Bulgarian, Ukranian and Hungarian alpine ski teams, Tonga Alpine ski team and of the Slovakian slalom skier Veronika Velez-Zuzulovà. In addition, Vist was Kwame Nkrumah-Acheampong's sponsor, the athlete who inspired the well-known ski equipment and clothing called “Snow Leopard”).
Kasete Skeen has already collected 7,300 pounds thanks to a crowdfunding campaign this way, “My name is Kasete Naufahu Skeen. I am a skeir from the Kingdom of Tonga. I'm going to try to get qualified for the Winter Olympic Games Pyeongchang 2018. If you know the tropical paradise of Tonga, this might sound weird. It would be even less probable if you knew me six months ago. But this is real and it is exactly what is happening to me. How you may imagine, I am not an expert skier. Nor a sportsman. Until six months ago I smoked, drank too much and ate badly. But since I have been cultivating this dream of mine, I have started a huge transformation. No more smoke, but training. I have lost 25 kilos and I am completely changing my food habits. Last September I left my work as amanager for a very famous festival in England, the Opera Holland Park Festival of London. I moved to Italy to train hard. I want to be successful".
INTERVIEW TO KASETE SKEEN
How did you ski career begin?
I began to ski when I was 12, during a school trip in Austria. I learnt quickly but then, living in London, I had a few chances to keep practising this sport. Much time passed before putting a pair of skis on again and I have to thank my girlfriend, Anna, and her family because they convinced me to get back on the ski slopes in Sweden, where they live. They made me love this sport.
How did you start to cooperate with Vist?
My relationship with Vist was born last summer. The company made all the equipment and clothing available to me to start training with my coach Hermann Aigner. Vist has given me the chance to make a dream come true.
How has your life changed?
Totally. I used to work in theatres in the operatic productions. Musicians, who are often busy between concerts and events, so they usually wake up late. And I, with them, always went to bed very late. Now, the contrary happens: I wake up at dawn to work out and I go to bed early. I am disciplined and I take care of my physical conditions.
What is your target?
My first goal is to take part to te Olympic Games as athlete of the Kingdom of Tonga, in a sport where my country has never been represented. I think this can inspire other people, too: if you look beyond the limits of your own culture - such as being a skier from Tonga - everything is possible. Personally, I love the mountains, the snow. I want to do my best to practise this sport as long as I can, everywhere.
Do you have a ritual before a ski race?
Before the start, I mix the bass and the drums in an app.
Along with your Olympic dream, what would you like to give to Tonga?
In the latest six months I have taken care of my diet and my wellness. In Tonga many people suffer from diabetes and bad health because of a wrong diet. Their life expectancy is lower and lower both because of their diet and for their poor conditions of life. This experience is teaching me many things about how to take care of your own health, therefore I hope I'll be a good example for my fellow countrypeople.
Both his Tongan origins and his life in the UK would see him with an oval in his hands. Yes, because in Tonga they play rugby: less than half of the 130,000 inhabitants play rugby. But the King of Tonga, Tupou, helped Kasete Skeen by founding the Royal Tonga Ski Federation in summer 2014 to let the first athletes work out for the 13th Winter Olympic Games in Pyeongchang. The enthusiasm sprang in 2014, at the Winter Olympic Games of Sochi, when Tonga had the debut in the luge discipline thanks to Fuahea Semi, also called Bruno Banani.
Until now, only one Tongan man succeeded in jumping on an Olympic podium. In 1996, Paea Wolfgramm won a silver medal in boxing (super heavyweigth) at the Olympic Games in Atlanta.