Six outstanding Tongan athletes and one Life Member of Sports were officially induced to the Tonga National Sports Hall of Fame recently, by the Minister for Lands, Survey and Natural Resources, Lord Tuita.
The Induction Ceremony on November 27 at the Basilica of St Anthony of Badua, was the second to be held and honoured Keta Palu ('Iongi) (62), Luke Veikoso (62), Sanitesi Latu (58), Sione Mafi (67), the late Sione Halafihi, the late Manitisa Vaka Kafalava, and the late Siaosi Palelei. Three of the awards are made posthumously.
The Director of Sports Dr Taniela Fusimalohi called the names of the seven sports celebrities and Lord Tuita presented certificates for:
Keta Palu (nee 'Iongi), born on August 5, 1947, in Nukunuku, Tongatapu and now residing in Sydney, Australia. As an athlete she represented Tonga in international competition from 1965-74. She first represented Tonga at the Western Samoa Independence Day, Apia, in 1965. She represented Tonga at the 1966 South Pacific Games, Noumea, New Caledonia. Keta qualified for the final in five events, the 100m, 200m 80m hurdles, long jump and shot put, but she caused a stir at the games because she refused to compete in the final because they took place on her Sabbath, and there is no sports competition in Tonga on Sabbath. Keta could not attend the ceremony.
Sione Halafihi (the late) was born on August 25 1933 at Taunga, Vava'u. Sione, a heavy weight boxer who started fighting internationally in 1954, until his retirement in 1967. He became the Light Heavyweight titleholder of New Zealand in 1956, and held the British Empire Light Heavyweight title in 1958. Sione lived and died in the United Kingdom.
Luke Veikoso was born in Ha'afeva, Ha'apai in 1947. He was a heavy weight boxer who reached the peak of his career when he won the South Seas Heavyweight title in 1976. Luke lives in the USA.
Manitisa Vaka Kafalava (the late) was born on April 6, 1947, at Kolofo'ou, Nuku'alofa. Mani was the holder of the Tongan Heavyweight and the Tongan Light Heavyweight titles in 1969. He also held the South Seas Heavyweight title in 1973. Mani reached the peak of his career when he was ranked No. 7 in the world heavyweight division. His last fight was against the world No. 4 Oscar Natalio Bonaveva, which he lost. Mani has passed away.
Sanitesi Latu was born on December 22, 1950, at Toloa, Tongatapu. Sanitesi grew up in a family surrounded by popular sports personalities, including Lutu Mailangi, 'Alipeti Latu, 'Eliesa Latu and Samu Latu, and it was his childhood dream to represent Tonga in international sports competitions. Sanitesi represented Tonga internationally from 1969-89. He won agold medal in 110 metre hurdles, and decathlon in the 1975 South Pacific Games, Guam. He won a gold for Tonga in Shot Put in the Rarotonga 1985 Mini Games, and in his last competition for Tonga in the 1989 Mini Games, Nuku'alofa. he won a bronze in Shot Put. Sanitesi was in Nuku'alofa for the Induction Ceremony, but he now lives in Melbourne, Australia.
Siaosi Palelei (the late) was born on June 19 1924 at Angaha, Niuafo'ou. Siaosi is remembered as a sports administrator and the manager of Tongan sports teams to international competition such as the South Pacific Games and the Commonwealth games. He passed away in May 13, 1999.
Sione Mafi was born on April 7, 1942, in Kolovai, Tongatapu. Sione was the captain of the Tonga national rugby team, and he was the captain of the Tongan team that beat the Australian Wallabies in 1973 at Ballimore, Brisbane, Australia. Sione also played for the Barbarian World Team that beat the All Blacks in 1979. Sione lives in Brisbane, Australia.
The Tonga National Hall of Fame is displayed in a room at the Tonga Amateur Sports Association at Haveluloto.
The six athletes whose names were in the first induction were: Kitione Lave, Paea Wolfgram, Taufa'ahau Tupou IV, Fakahau Valu, Tali Kavapalu and Motuliki Kailahi.