You can take the boy out of Samoa, but never Samoa out of the boy.
Ato Plodzicki-Faoagali, an Australian born with Samoan and Polish roots, is 100 percent Samoan at heart.
The 19-year-old boxer is the third child of Steven and Monica Faoagali from the villages of Saaga Siumu and Tuana’i.
The road to becoming the enthusiastic boxer he is today was tough. It all started from a childhood dream, which through perseverance, turned into a reality.
“I sucked in the beginning and with every fight, I kept on improving. I lost the first three fights but after that I kept on winning.
“My father told me to keep at it and I believed in him and kept at it and it has paid off.
“Just like anything else in life with hard work and dedication. There is no secret behind my achievement. You have to train smart as well. Don’t over train yourself because you can injure yourself and things like that.
“Also there are a lot of people behind the scenes who help me.There are too many names to thank for their help, and my father is one of them because he trained me for many years.”
Ato explained: “I have a lot of self-belief and confidence. But my main motto when I am about to go in the ring is I have done all the hard work so this will be easy. I don’t really put pressure on myself with the people who surround me.
“If people are talking me down, I don’t care or even if they put me up I don’t really mind, I just care about myself in there.
“In the ring, I just care about my opinion and what my coach tells me. It is a guideline to tell you if you are winning or losing and what you need to do a bit more. All of that is to lead me to the right direction.”
He has joined many other sports, but boxing captivated his heart.
“I was always a sports person. I was playing rugby at a young age, but I did not like how you had to rely on others.
“I like the individuality, where you rely on yourself a lot more. So everything you do in the gym is the result of your success.
“I feel more Samoan now, just by representing Samoa at the Youth Commonwealth Games and Commonwealth Games, but I do love my Polish side as well, especially their food. I love both cultures.
“They are both very different cultures, Polish culture is very different from Samoa in many ways. Like the way of life compared to Samoa, which is respectful and respecting your elders which I like a lot.
“I have been coming over to Samoa a lot. I did an eight weeks camp here and my understanding of Samoan has improved, all the boys have been teaching me a lot. Thanks to them I could understand more now.”
At one stage of his boxing career, he sustained an injury and he feared that he was not going to participate again.
“Probably when I got cut open, it was the biggest one and I thought that I was not able to fight the next day. I had a big black eye and I couldn’t see, so I had to ice it for 24 hours.
“I couldn’t sleep properly and so it was tough. So I made my other belts harder, so that was when I was on my second belt and I had to fight two belts after that.”
Ato may mean basket in English, but any bag or basket is useful, he said.
“I am named after my father. That was his previous name and he got adopted and now he is named Steven.
“With my career, I owe most of it to my father, my parents. He started my boxing training for many years,” he said.
He also shared the meaning of his tattoos on his wrists.
“With the tattoos that I have on my wrists, they represent my parents. They are on my parents arms and I got both of them.
“Every time I would throw a punch it will be for my parents.”
Boxing will always be his dream and he hopes to be selected for the 2019 Pacific Games, but his ultimate goal is the Olympic Games.
“Blue and red are my favorite colors because it represents Samoa and Polish colours. Polish is red and white and Samoa is blue.”