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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Tonga's Silver Medal Comes Home

NUKU'ALOFA, Tonga -- The Pacific kingdom of Tonga celebrated a national holiday Wednesday to mark the return of Olympic boxing hero Paea Wolfgramm with dancing, parades and a regal banquet.


Wolfgramm, who fought with a broken right wrist to win Tonga's first-ever Olympic medal, said shaking the hands of so many well-wishers was making the injury worse.


But he told Radio New Zealand: "As long as I don't go around punching anything for the next month or so, it should heal up."


The superweight silver medalist arrived in Tonga on Tuesday night to a welcome so rapturous that it threw the international airport into chaos.


Thousands of Tongans turned out to welcome him while angry passengers cursed customs and airport staff for long queues and delays as officials celebrated with the crowd.


"It has taken 100 years to win a medal so I think we can be excused from our posts for just a few minutes," said one official.


Wolfgramm, 26, whose 140 kilogram physique is more akin to a drinker than a boxer, captured world attention by reaching the Olympic final.


The win propelled the tiny South Pacific island group of 95,000 people to the top of the world medal table on a population basis.


Wolfgramm, dressed in a traditional flax skirt, was greeted by Prime Minister Baron Vaea, other ministers and dignitaries with hugs and kisses. The program of celebrations also includes an audience with King Taufa'ahau Tupou IV at the Royal Palace.