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For Immediate Release


Lā‘ie, Hawai‘i – May 15, 2016 – Mikaele Oloa of Waialua, HI earned the distinction of becoming the world’s “hottest” champion for a record fifth time on Saturday night (May 14), winning the 2016 World Fireknife Championship at the Polynesian Cultural Center (PCC).

Oloa showed tremendous creativity, power, speed and risk in a routine he designed based on the ancient traditions of Samoan fireknife dancing. His tosses overhead were the highest and he twirled one and two fireknives over his head, in front of his body, behind his back, and at times juggled them at different heights. Oloa’s routine culminated with him on his back, balanced only on his feet and head, and pushing himself backwards over 30 feet of ground, all while spinning a fireknife in both hands.

“I just tried to stay savage with my routine, to be like a Samoan warrior,” said Oloa, who also noted in becoming the first-ever five-time champion. “It’s more and more of a blessing each time. I look forward to the competition each year and train year-round to get ready for it.”

Falaniko Penesa of Samoa came in second, with Matuni Vaiaoga of Orlando, FL finishing third.
Wearing a traditional lavalava and energized by the pulsating beat of 10 Polynesian drummers and roars of the sold-out crowd at the 2,700-seat Pacific Theater, each finalist gave a stupendous performance that was unique in originality, but reflected the phenomenal skill needed to compete at this level.

Alfred Grace, PCC President and CEO, commented, “We congratulate Mikaele Oloa for being the first-ever five-time world champion. The competition was so close in skill and the creativity each finalist showed tonight was incredible. What’s especially impressive is how good the quality of competition has gotten at all age levels. We are fortunate there are so many excellent young men and boys who are perpetuating this proud tradition of the Samoan warrior.”

Fireknife dancing draws its roots from the Samoan ailao, a warrior’s knife dance, performed before battle with the nifo oti, or “tooth of death.” Now in its 24th year, the World Fireknife Championships was established by the PCC to showcase this proud Samoan tradition and perpetuate it for future generations to embrace.

This year’s three-day World Fireknife Championships began with the opening round on Thursday, May 12. Eighteen top fireknife dancers from around the world competed in the elite Senior Division (age 18 and older) to determine this year’s best-of-the-best. Competitors came from Auckland, New Zealand; Fukushima, Japan; Okinawa; Tahiti; Samoa; Anchorage, (AK); Pittsburgh (PA); Orlando (FL); San Diego (CA); Henderson (NV) and Hawai‘i (O‘ahu and Hawai‘i Island).

Six competitors advanced to the semi-finals on Friday night (May 13), from which the panel of judges selected tonight’s three finalists to vie for the World Championship.

Also on Friday night, the next generation of 17 fireknife dancers competed in the Junior Division (ages 6-11) and Intermediate Division (ages 12-17).

We Are Samoa Festival
The World Fireknife Championships is the main attraction of the PCC’s We Are Samoa Festival, Hawai‘i’s largest annual Samoan cultural celebration. The other featured event was the High School Samoan Cultural Arts Festival, also held Saturday, at which teams of Hawai‘i school students of Polynesian ancestry competed in traditional Samoan practices.

Six Authentic Island Villages at PCC
Samoa is one of PCC’s six authentic island villages, the others being Hawai‘i, Tahiti, Tonga, Fiji, and Aotearoa (New Zealand), that celebrate its native culture and people amidst the PCC’s 42 lushly landscaped acres. At each village, guests are immersed in fun and engaging presentations, exhibits, and hands-on activities.

The Samoa village is a popular attraction for guests, who are delighted by an entertainment program that’s exciting, fun and informative, featuring cultural demonstrations that include tree climbing, coconut husking and fire making.

For more information about the Polynesian Cultural Center, visit www.polynesia.com or call (800) 367-7060.