Tautai Toko Tofaeono is an overcomer.
A former dual rugby international for Manu Samoa and Toa Samoa, Toko survives to show that with willpower of steel and determination, nothing is impossible. Not even a wheelchair can stop you.
Today Toko is a flight planner for Air New Zealand in Auckland. He is among students of the Classmates of 1981 gathering in Auckland this week for their reunion.
They are sharing many stories from back in the days.
Toko certainly has many stories to tell.
In his playing days, he was superior.
He was among the originals that toured Europe in 1988, which saw the two national sides evolved and rebranded to what it is today, the Manu Samoa and Toa Samoa.
His unorthodox Toko’s style of attack in the two rugby disciplines from the wing is something to marvel about opting to take on the offense by surprise with his head on confrontation instead of flying to the corners. It has earned him the respect of selectors to become a dual rugby international for Samoa in both rugby professional codes.
Today Toko’s superior, calculative and cunning tactics remain revered with his individual ingenuity to create opportunities to put Samoa on the scoreboard.
And it was fate as the writing was on the wall during his school years at Leifiifi Intermediate School where Toko was championship material as the 8th grade rugby champs in Form 1 and again as the 9th Grade Boys Champ in Form 2.
At Avele College, he helped his College win the gold medals in a regional College tournament in Taiwan and repeated the feat in a similar tournament staged in New Zealand.
But his rugby career ended abruptly due to a plane crash while working as co-pilot for Polynesian Airlines inter-island services between the two Samoa’s in 1996.
From that, he was confined to a wheelchair for life.
But his willpower intensified after two years of self-pity almost forced him to go over the edge.
The love of his life, his two daughters Chanel and Chiana, gave him strength, coupled with divine intervention providing reassurance that there is a reason for everything to happen.
“That was the darkest period in life,” reminisced Toko.
“I hated living. Worse of all, I hated everything but the future of my two girls was and remains paramount.”
A couple of years later, he graduated with a Bachelor of Aviation. He also holds a Bachelor and Master in Aviation from Massey University Albany.
Today Toko is a flight planner for Air New Zealand in Auckland.
He remains active as he continues life as if nothing has changed by concentrating on his career to earn a decent living for his two daughters.
Tautai’s inspiring story of determination and steel will power is set to inspire a new generation of young people.
“At the end of day, I hope sharing my life story will help inspire not just my classmates but everyone that never to give up despite the challenges,” he said.
And he has earned the respect and admiration of the Classmates of 1981 as one of their own whose success story of trials and tribulations reaffirms the Classmates platform to lead by example and set a pathway for their children to follow.