Krasnaya Polyana, Russia • Talk about Olympic support.
Tongan luger Bruno Banani — formerly known as Fuahea Semi — shares his name with a German underwear company that paired with the 26-year-old in a unique sponsorship agreement.
The story is straight from a Hollywood movie script. And it’s not, ahem, brief.
When Tongan Princess Salote Mafile’o Pilolevu Tuita set out in 2008 get an athlete from the tiny Polynesian nation into the Winter Games, Banani, then a computer science student and member of the military, beat out dozens of other Tongans and decided to give luge a go. He moved to Germany in 2009 and trained with the sliding power’s national team.
Needing money to cover the cost of the expensive sport, he approached the company Bruno Banani, which manufactures men’s underwear. He changed his name to the company’s and soon the two were partners.
Banani failed to qualify for the Vancouver Games after crashing and sustaining a concussion. Though a longshot to medal, he’ll be in the field in Sochi and will take his initial runs when competition begins Saturday.
No, there won’t be a Calvin Klein sliding, as well.
— Tom Withers
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