Pita Taufafotua, who represented Tonga in the Taekwondo Oceania Olympic Qualifiers in Port Moresby, made history by being the first Tongan in the sport to qualify for the Olympics.
Taufafotua competed in the plus 80kg division and fought twice in the one-day qualifier, initially beating Papua New Guinea’s Jonathan Paschalis by a point.
However, the Tongan stamped his authority and made his Olympic intentions known by beating his old New Zealand opponent, Dafydd Sanders, ranked 18th in the world according to Taekwondo Union New Zealand.
Having fought twice in the past, Taufafotua and Sanders are no strangers to each other with Taufafotua on the losing end of both encounters.
But the Tongan, learning from past losses stopped Sanders from achieving a successive treble victory over him.
An elated and teary Taufafotua exclusively told PNG TV Live, his victory was a dedication to God.
“This is my third time - I won two silver medals in the previous qualifiers I missed out and when I got together with my team, we agreed that everything, from day one for this qualifier, would be dedicated to God, to Tonga and then for us and God took care of everything.
“God directed me, he told me when to kick, when not to kick, Daffud – he’s an amazing athlete, he’s beaten twice – the fight between us went down to the wire and realistically, it could have been any one of us.
“Full respect to Dafydd, he’s trained his whole life in the sport and that’s the aim for the sport – it’s really getting to master the finer details, but like I said, all glory to The Man Upstairs,” said Taufafotua.
Taufafotua said he got the inspiration he needed to overcome Sanders, from PNG’s young Max Kassman who also qualified in a pulsating match against Vanuatu’s Bruce Jonathan.
“Max Kassman inspired me, you know he just fought all the way until the end and he never gave up.”
“He fought in the fight before me and I thought to myself, if that kid can do it, then I can have a damn good shot at it!”
“My PNG opponent (Jonathan Paschalis) was tough, I was really hoping he wasn’t going to bring it the way he did… but he did but he didn’t leave anything on the table, he threw everything at me!”
“In the last round, I thought I had it in the bag, but he went for the head-kick and I didn’t see it coming and he landed it sweetly but I was lucky that I had 15 seconds and I managed to squeeze one in, which I did.”
“I have full respect for Papua New Guinea and ever country that took part - everyone fought well,” said Taufafotua.