Tongan Bear Strikes at Oceanic Championships

Day 3 of the 2012 Oceania Championships in the island territory of New Caledonia is in the books, and the Tongan Bear Amini Fonua is back in action, winning his second-straight gold medal in the 50 breaststroker.

The Texas A&M sprinter scratched the 100 breast on Wednesday, confident in his time and just awaiting a call from FINA regarding the Olympics, but couldn’t resist attacking the 50 breaststroke, where he was the defending champion. He scored an emotional win in 28.80, and would say afterward that “This one is dedicated to Tongan Swimming. I hope we get some more Tongans learning how to swim and saving some lives.”

Fonua is referring to the efforts of him, and the rest of the small Tongan National Team, to get a pool built in the country of 100,000 citizens. After a 2009 ferry disaster where 64 people passed away, the swimmers have taken it upon themselves to become national advocates for water safety (much like we see Cullen Jones doing in the United States). Fonua hopes that his continued success (he is waiting to hear about an Olympic bid this weekend) will spur more interest in the sport in his native country, and aquatic safety in general.

In other action on the men’s side, Australia’s Declan Potts took his second gold medal of the event, adding a win in the 400 free (3:55.23) to a prior victory in the 200 fly.

Australia’s Ben Edmonds also added a second title, with a gold in the 200 backstroke in 2:03.12, getting to the wall just ahead of New Zealand’s Kurt Crosland in 2:03.40. Wisconsin Badger swimmer Daniel Lester, also representing Australia, took a gold in the 100 fly in 53.45 – a solid in-season time for him.

Meanwhile, in the women’s races, Australia’s Lorna Tonks broke her second Championship Record of the meet with a 31.66 in the 50 breaststroke, putting her in the top 20 in the world this year. Tonks is a bit of a late-bloomer at 24, but with the vacuum left in Australian breaststroking after probable post-Olympic retirements, she could be emerging as a future player.

Tonks on the same day took silver in the 100 fly in 1:01.61, with the win in that race going to her countrymate Nicole Mee in 1:01.41. Yasmine Ware, a high school freshman from Hawaii, took her second bronze medal of the meet in 1:06.35.

The Australian women kept their clean-sweep going with Mikkayla Sheridan winning the 200 back in 2:14.06, and Amy Levings winning the 400 free in 4:16.50.

The Aussies also swept the 400 free relays. The women won in 3:49.40, with New Caledonia coming surprisingly close at a 4:00. The Australian men took the victory in 3:24.71, including a 49.8 leadoff by Kyle Richardson and a 49.56 second leg from Kenneth To.

Full Meet Results available here.

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Way to go Amini!! You truly are an inspiration!


Aww man, I thought “Tongan Bear” was somebody’s name.

About Braden Keith

Braden Keith

Braden Keith is the Editor-in-Chief and a co-founder of He first got his feet wet by building The Swimmers' Circle beginning in January 2010, and now comes to SwimSwam to use that experience and help build a new leader in the sport of swimming. Aside from his life on the InterWet, …

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