Champion’s Tongan speech stirs emotional reaction

Four times world shot putting champion Valerie Adam's acceptance speech in Tongan has met with an emotional reaction from the Tongan community in New Zealand.

Adams, who has said she is deeply proud of her Tongan heritage and culture, made the speech at the recent New Zealand Islands Sports award ceremony.

She won the Sportswoman of the Year and the Supreme Sport Person categories.

The Olympic and Commonwealth gold medallist surprised many in the Tongan community by delivering her thank you speech in fluent and confident Tongan.


SOURCE: Tagata Pasifika

“Malo e lelei kou tomu’a tuku heni ha fakamalo ki he tamai hevani he’ene tapuekina mai au mo ‘eku mo’ui pea pehe ki he taleniti na’a ne foaki mai kiate au.Kou fie Faka’apa’apaatu ki he pilinisesi ‘a Tonga SaloteLupepau’u. Kou fie fakamalolahi ki he kau Tonga hono kotoa mou support mai au ‘eku ‘alu faisipoti ‘i mamani. Ko ‘eku fa’ee ‘oku ha’u mei Houma ko hono hingoa ko Lilikaki Moana Niupalau. Pea ko ia foki kou ‘alu pe ‘o fe’auhi ka ‘oku tala kotoa pe kia kinautolu ko ‘eku ha’u mei Tonga,’ Adams said, to an applause by the audience.

In English, this means:

“Hello everyone. I would like to first of all thank the Heavenly Father for He has blessed me with my life and the talent He has given to me. I would like to also thank (respect) Tonga’s Princess Salote Lupepau’u. I would like to thank  to all Tongans for your support while I was out there in the world playing sport. My mother is Lilika mei Moana Niupalau from Houma. And wherever I was competing I told them that I come from Tonga.” (Translation by Kaniva)

It appears many Tongans did not know that Adams, who is always proud to identify herself as Tongan in the world sporting arena, could speak Tongan.

Adams was born in Rotorua in 1984 to a Tongan mother and English father.

Many people presumed that with an English father, she would speak English rather than Tongan. Her media interviews are normally conducted in English and according to Statistics New Zealand record, Tongans living in New Zealand are most likely to use English.

Adams’ speech was recorded by the television programme Tangata Pasifika and has been extensively shared by groups, pages and personal accounts on Facebook.

Tongan Facebook users praised Adams for endorsing her Tongan identity.

“Wow love and proud of this beautiful lady. For someone like Valierie to say in front of the whole world how proud she is to be Tongan touch my heart. I'm speechless ma'alahi ta'ahine tonga. All the best Valerie,” one post said.

“Still buzzing how she confidently articulated with no cue cards and shared her capacity to be bilingual in Tongan and English fakalata! I saved the whole Tangata Pasifika Pacific Sports Awards 2013 on Mysky HDI & shared it with everyone who visits home lol…This is a perfect clip and just perfect to share with my Junior students from the Gateway of Aoteoroa-Mangere,” Auckland-based Tongan High School teacher Alisi Tatafu wrote.

Adams wrote on Facebook and thanked the Tongan community for their support.

“Thanks for the love and support up in here. I am proud and grateful to my mum who taught me the Tongan language and culture…something I am deeply proud of. Maloaupito,” she said.

About Valerie Adams

Valerie Adams has won four world championships, making her the most successful shot putter in history.

She won her fourth championship in Moscow in August this year.

Adams competed in the London Olympics in 2012.

 She initially won silver, but was awarded first place when the Belorussian athlete was stripped of her gold medal after failing a drugs test.

The 29 years-old athlete had previously won gold at the Beijing Olympics in 2008 and the Commonwealth Games in 2010 and 2006.

This year she has been recovering from knee and ankle surgery.

Last month the Rotorua-born shot putter was a finalist in the International Athletic Federation’s athlete of the year awards named in Monaco.

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