Tongan luger Bruno Banani exposed as a hoax
A promising young luger from the tropical island of Tonga, has been exposed as a marketing fraud by German magazine Der Spiegel.Reminiscent of film Cool Runnings, Bruno Banani, the son of a Tongan coconut farmer, was destined to slide into the history books as Tonga's first Olympic competitor in the sport.
Banani's triumph would be fulfilling the wishes of Tongan Princess Royal, Salote Mafile'o Pilolevu Tuita, who had always dreamed about a citizen of her country entering the cold weather race.
A German underwear company was helping the 24 year-old fulfil his lifelong ambition with sponsorship due to an odd coincidence – he bore the same name as their brand.
Alas, all was not as it seemed. German magazine Der Spiegel has unmasked the mischievous luger, whose catchphrase was "coconut-powered", as a hoax – his identity being the clever craftsmanship of a marketing company in Leipzig.
Banani is in fact Fuahea Semi, the son of a Tongan cassava farmer, according to the magazine.
Semi, an IT student, was selected at a casting session on the island in 2008. Marketing company Makai then intervened, somehow managing to issue him with a passport in the name of Bruno Banani and entering him into the 2010 Vancouver games. The Tongan crashed out in the qualifier and ended up in hospital with concussion.
However, despite the name swindle, some parts of the story are true: it is the Tongan Princes Royal's dream to have a Tongan competitor in the Luge Winter Olympics.
Mathias Ihle, head of Makai told The Guardian newspaper: "Bruno is about to compete at the luge world championships [held in Altenberg, east Germany, from 6 February] and we are trying to make things as calm as possible around him, especially after the [Spiegel] article."