Would-be Olympic skier from Tonga

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LewLasher
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Would-be Olympic skier from Tonga

Postby LewLasher » Fri Jan 12, 2018 7:14 pm

The U.S. public radio sports show "Only a Game" has a story this week about a man from the Polynesian nation of Tonga who is trying to qualify for the 2018 Winter Olympics:

http://www.wbur.org/onlyagame/2018/01/1 ... r-olympics

This is based mostly on a recent article in the Wall Street Journal (subscription needed):

https://www.wsj.com/articles/remember-t ... 1515080603

I have mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, I am as appreciative as anyone of athletes who succeed despite not living in a large or wealthy country, without the benefits of the experience and support systems available to those more fortunate. On the other hand, simply being unprivileged and seeking a long-shot goal are not enough to earn worldwide respect and publicity.

I would have more respect for the radio show if they had waited until the Tongan skier had actually qualified for the Winter Olympics. Given that they say in the show that this "doesn't seem likely", I accuse the radio people, as well as the writers for the Wall Street Journal, of being suckers for a novelty story. The radio show contends that it makes a good sports story because "[t]rying one’s best is part of the point, as is pursuing a goal about as unlikely as it could be." I disagree. There are plenty of serious athletes who work for years trying their best. This is a story about someone who took up cross-country skiing (and roller skiing) only one year ago - after competing in the Summer Olympics in 2016 - and, according to the radio story, had no idea what ski waxes were for until after attempting to compete in international competition.

If you look at the Web page for the radio program, you'll see what I mean by "novelty story." The lead for the story is based on the Tongan's athlete fame at the 2016 Games, not for his athletic performance (he lost his one contest), but for his parading in the opening ceremonies without a shirt. The Wall Street Journal reporter, upon witnessing this, declared that the athlete "was about to take over the world" because of the resulting publicity (provided by the media). This week's radio show declares that this was "one of the most dramatic moments of the most recent Summer Games." I'd say that these are both examples of the media being swept away by celebrity.

The radio show says that the athlete turned down acting and modeling offers to turn instead to his new sudden interest in cross-country skiing. And so it might not be fair to accuse him of seeking only fame and celebrity. But I think it's fair to accuse the press of playing the public for suckers.

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Neuro
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Re: Would-be Olympic skier from Tonga

Postby Neuro » Sat Jan 13, 2018 10:18 am

It's of course desperately unfair that no-hope athletes can compete in the biggest competition of them all just because they have a certain passport, whereas real medal contenders aren't allowed because they have another passport (where their limited quota is used up).

But I can't really blame the no-hopers, they were not the ones to make up the rules. I would certainly go as a 'competing tourist' to the Olympics if I had the chance.

As for the sex appeal thing, that's just human nature and what sells media. Happens all the time to anybody. Someone in a reality show /baking competition is hot, he/she becomes everyone's favorite, next thing he/she is a celebrity. I believe some are even celebrities having done absolutely nothing, just because they are hot.

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Neuro
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Re: Would-be Olympic skier from Tonga

Postby Neuro » Sat Jan 13, 2018 10:21 am

Just have a look at this:


MN Hoser
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Re: Would-be Olympic skier from Tonga

Postby MN Hoser » Fri Jan 19, 2018 9:08 pm

I think that skiers should have to go through qualifications for the Olympics. So the normal countries on the world cup, organizers have a good idea how fast their skiers are. If a county doesn't participate in the World Cup or even international races, there should be some type of qualification. They do it for sprint races; they can do it for a 5 km. If doesn't have restrict participation to really fast racers, but it should remove someone like me from being a skier for Papua New Guinea. Also, if a skier is slower than X% than the leader during a race, they get pulled from the race. Exceptions can be made for broken equipment, but I think it's important to get slow skiers off the course when the fast skiers come through.

Jay

LewLasher
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Re: Would-be Olympic skier from Tonga

Postby LewLasher » Sat Jan 20, 2018 7:11 am

MN Hoser wrote:I think that skiers should have to go through qualifications for the Olympics.

This is basically true. It isn't as though someone can just show up at the Olympics as the best (or only) skier from their country.

There is a skier, Tucker Murphy, who has competed on behalf of Bermuda. I believe that he has dual citizenship from Bermuda and the U.S. (I thought he was born in Bermuda, but, according to Wikipedia, he was born in the U.S.) He raced in college (and possibly in high school), so, in his case, it is not as though he just decided on some last-minute whim to try out for the Olympics. After competing in the 2010 Winter Olympics, he gave a talk at the Stowe Nordic club, where he explained that he had to compete in some number of world competitions, with some degree of success, in order to qualify to compete in the Olympics. And, according to Wikipedia, Turker Murphy also competed in the 2014 Games and is going to compete in the 2018 Games.

According to the radio program "Only a Game", the rules were recently loosened to some extent:

"After the Sochi Games in 2014, the International Ski Federation decided, in an effort to expand its field to warm weather nations, it decided to allow points accrued in roller skiing events to count toward cross-country skiing," Cohen explains. "So it is possible to qualify for cross-country skiing at the Olympics by getting most of your points while on roller skis."


Nonetheless, the guy from Tonga still needed to achieve some degree of success in actual skiing competition, with two remaining opportunities, one last weekend and the other this coming weekend.

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Neuro
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Re: Would-be Olympic skier from Tonga

Postby Neuro » Sat Jan 20, 2018 11:36 am

With championship performers like biathlete Ole-Einar Bjørndalen and skier Petter Northug possibly not making the team due to poor run-ups, it will be painful to watch some no-hopers trundling around filling up places that in a fair world should be theirs.

LewLasher
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Re: Would-be Olympic skier from Tonga

Postby LewLasher » Sat Feb 17, 2018 7:35 am

For those of you who haven't been following this exciting Olympic story, the guy from Tonga did (barely) qualify for the Olympics, and, there he is, with his biggest accomplishment being - wait for it - parading around shirtless during the opening ceremonies.

Online magazine Slate ponders the question whether this qualifies him, officially, as an "Olympics jerk":

https://slate.com/culture/2018/02/olympics-jerk-watch-pita-taufatofua-the-shirtless-tongan.html


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