World’s Hottest Champion Crowned at Polynesian Cultural Center
– Via Tiumalu, Jr. of Orlando, FL Wins World Fireknife Championships –
Laie, Hawaii – May 10, 2014 – After four nights of grueling, heated and fiery competition, Via Tiumalu, Jr. of Orlando, FL tonight won the hottest championship in Polynesia, the 2014 World Fireknife Championships. This is Tiumalu’s third time being named the world champion, having previously earned the title in 2011 and 2008.
Hosted by the Polynesian Cultural Center (PCC) as part of the We Are Samoa Festival (May 7-10), the World Fireknife Championships brought together 24 of the world’s best fireknife dancers. Following the opening round of performances on Wednesday, the judges pared the field down to nine semi-finalists on Thursday night, and then to the three finalists who performed Friday and Saturday night.
The eight judges added together the scores of both nights to determine Tiumalu as this year’s world champion. The other two finalists were Falaniko Penesa of Samoa, first runner up, and Malo Matau of Laie, second runner up.
“It’s a tremendous honor to win this championship for my family and represent the Samoan culture,” said Tiumalu. “This year’s competition was the toughest I’ve ever faced, and I want to congratulate Falaniko, Malo and the rest of the contestants for putting on a great show.”
Tiumalu, 22, has been doing fireknife dancing for 11 years. Born and raised in Orlando to parents of Samoan ancestry, Tiumalu learned the traditional art from his father. His potential to become one of the world’s best was apparent early as he won the Junior Division of the World Fireknife Championships several times before moving up to the elite Senior Division that he now competes in.
All three finalists gave superb performances while wearing a traditional lavalava and performing to the blood-pumping accompaniment of 12 Samoan drummers.
Tiumalu stood out for his flawless execution and spectacular feats combining athleticism with artistry over both nights. He twirled first, one, and then two flaming, sharpened fireknives at blinding speed while standing up, laying down, spinning around, and bounding about the 100-foot by 70-foot stage area of the PCC’s Pacific Theater.
Tiumalu tossed the fireknives high in the air, spun them behind his back, through his legs, over his head, grabbed the flaming ends and brought them to his mouth. At the end of Tiumalu’s final performance, he bowed to enthusiastic cheers and a standing ovation from the audience.
Fireknife dancing originated from the traditional Samoan ailao, a warrior’s knife dance, performed before battle with the nifo oti, or “tooth of death.” PCC established the World Fireknife Championships to showcase this treasured Samoan tradition and perpetuate it for future generations to embrace.
The conclusion of the World Fireknife Championships also brings an end to the PCC’s annual We Are Samoa Festival, Hawaii’s largest Samoan cultural celebration and a pre-eminent showcase of Samoa’s traditions.
“We had a wonderful week showcasing Samoa and it was inspiring to see so many people of all ages come here to join in this celebration and learn more about beauty and traditions of Samoa’s culture,” said Logo Apelu, PCC Chief Operating Officer. “We thank all of our participants and sponsors and appreciate how they share our love for Samoa and its people.”
Samoa is one of six authentic island villages, at which the PCC celebrates their native culture and people amidst the Center’s 42 lushly landscaped acres, the others being Hawaii, Tahiti, Tonga, Fiji, and Aotearoa (New Zealand). At each village, guests are immersed in fun and engaging presentations, exhibits, and hands-on activities.
The Samoa village has historically been one of PCC’s most popular daily attractions for visitors, who take great enjoyment in an entertainment program that’s both funny and exciting, including tree climbing, coconut husking, and fire-making demonstrations.
For more information on the World Fireknife Championships, please visit www.worldfireknife.com.
For more information on the PCC, please visit www.polynesia.com.
About the Polynesian Cultural Center
Located on Oahu’s beautiful North Shore, the Polynesian Cultural Center (PCC) is the only cultural tourist attraction of its kind in the world and a favorite of all visitors to Hawaii. An engaging, interactive celebration showcasing the people, culture, arts and crafts of Polynesia, the PCC has entertained more than 37 million visitors from around the world in its first 50 years (1963-2013). A non-profit organization, 100 percent of PCC’s revenue goes to daily operations and to support the education of its student-employees from neighboring Brigham Young University-Hawaii.