Road to Olympics a "gift from God"

Marion Faustino Ah Tong’s journey to the Olympic Games is a “gift from God,” according to his devoted mother Luatuanuu Salafai Ah Tong.

The 20-year-old boxer, who just months ago was crowned the 2020 New Zealand welterweight champion in his division (and the youngest ever to do so), found out this week he has qualified for the Olympic Games in Tokyo.

Speaking to the Samoa Observer on Tuesday, his mother Luatuanuu said she knew he would be going to Japan even before she was told. And she feels she knows the outcome of the Olympics, too. 

“In my heart, I knew it long ago,” she said. “It was really a gift from God, a gift that was given to him when he was really young. 

“I was not surprised when they said he had been picked, because I knew all along, the Lord is faithful to his promises.” 

In his family, Ah Tong is known as Diamond Fist. The name comes from a dream his mother had the night he broke his left arm as a young pre-schooler: that God came and gave her a gift of a diamond. 

“That night, I had a beautiful dream. Lord Jesus came to me and said, this is your gift. I always think about it.

She believes her son was blessed from the moment he was born. She named him Marion after Mother Mary, and Faustino for Saint Faustino, because she went into labour in the middle of her church.

But her son’s achievement has a bittersweet sorrow too: her husband, Ah Tong’s father Luamanuvae Gagau Mateo passed away in August last year. 

“It’s so sad that his father is not here,” Luatuanuu said.

“It was him who really supported him all along, he travelled everywhere, he was in the National Boxing Federation just to support him.”

Ah Tong has always had a strong team of supporters around him, including his uncle and coach, Luafalealo Vitale Ah Tong. He has even had a bit of coaching from boxer Lupesoliai Joseph Parker. 

He started boxing as a four year old, and immediately became passionate about it, Luatuanuu said. 

In high school he claimed a national title, and in 2017 he made his international debut in the Bahamas. By 2018 he was competing in the Oceania Youth Boxing Tournament here in Apia, and in 2019 he won a gold medal in the Pacific Games, also in Samoa. 

“When I saw that he is having that potential in boxing, I remember my dream, so I named him Diamond Fist, because of the gift that the Lord gave me. I knew it was for my son,” Luatuanuu said.

“His hand that he broke, it’s the hand that gives him that power. The Lord has given him a gift, and I have seen it now, he is working his way to the Olympics and having this chance, it’s all the Lord’s doing, it’s not my doing. 

“I just pray for him, and thank Him for the talents.”

Ah Tong and fellow boxer Tupuola Ato Plodzicki-Faoagali qualified for the coveted international event this week after the qualifying pathway was restructured by an International Olympic Committee task force. 

Taking into account the pandemic’s impacts on qualifying events and travel, the Boxing Taskforce (B.T.F.) assessed the competitors named Ah Tong and Tupuola, among several other international boxers, were good enough to come to Tokyo.

Even when Ah Tong didn’t qualify at the Oceania-Asia opportunity in Jordan last March, she still felt certain her son would find another pathway to his ultimate dream.

“He doesn’t want him to go right into the light, He wants him to be humble. You know how the Lord works in so many mysterious ways.

“But He will always make a way for him.”

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