Fonua determined to make a splash for Tonga
It might be that you've loved every minute of these Commonwealth Games. If so, good on you. If you haven't, and you've been wondering whether any of it really matters much, listen to the tale of Amini Fonua.
Fonua, 19 years old, is here representing Tonga in the 50m backstroke, 100m backstroke, 100m breaststroke and 50m breaststroke. That's the least remarkable thing about him.
Tonga has never before had a swimmer at the Commonwealth Games. You might find that surprising for an island race. Then you discover that there isn't a single public swimming pool anywhere in the country.
The only pool of any sort is a natural tidal hollow in the coral, measuring roughly 100m by 100m, but so treacherous are the ocean currents that three swimmers have drowned there in the last three years alone.
Fonua, born in Auckland to a Tongan father and English mother, was forced to learn to swim in New Zealand. But he is proud to act as a torch-bearer for his fellow countrymen.
"It feels great," he says. "I'm really pleased that I've been given the chance to represent the kingdom.
"Dad would make sure we would go over to Tonga at least once a year, and tried to instil lots of cultural value in us. Tonga has had some great athletes - Paea Wolfgramm won Olympic silver in 1996 - but I guess I'm setting a new pattern. We're trying to create a new avenue for Tongans."
When Wolfgramm reached the gold medal bout in the super-heavyweight boxing in Atlanta, Tonga's monarch King Taufa'ahou Topu IV ordered a national day of fasting and prayer to aid his cause.
Fonua could have done with the same. Flying to Delhi from Houston, where he was on a sports scholarship at Texas A&M University, he missed his connecting flight after an airline delay and was forced to spend the penultimate night before the Games sleeping on the floor at Newark Airport.
When he did finally arrive in India, less than 12 hours before his first heat in the 50m backstroke, he found he had missed the chance to join the other 21 Tongans in the national squad at the opening ceremony. Worse than that, his bags had failed to arrive with him.
"That meant I couldn't shave down, and that I made my Commonwealth debut wearing pyjama pants," he says ruefully.
"I also didn't have a swim hat, so I was forced to borrow one from a Jamaican friend of mine and then turn it inside out to disguise the flag.
"I'd probably had four hours sleep that Sunday night. It wasn't good, but you have to stay positive. It was still something to be here."
Amini Fonua in action in 2008. Picture: Getty.
"There's been a lot of positive feedback, and kids are starting to get into swimming which is great. We're definitely trying to establish ourselves as a swimming nation - we're like a baby right now, but hopefully in the next few years we can get something up and running."
"It's on the television back there, three times a day, and we've had some good reports," says Michael O'Shannassey, his mentor here in India. "I think it's a good opportunity for kids in Tonga to see swimming. His success will hopefully motivate a few of them.
"What we need is a few 'learn to swim' programmes. We have got a coach in Tonga - an Australian lady whose husband is working in there at the moment - so she could coach some kids."
O'Shannassey, an Aussie from Melbourne, has been working in Tonga for the past three years. A former medallist in the S8 category at the Fespic Games, he is passionate about improving swimming in the nation.
"The Tongan build is all about power and speed, and I think there's real potential over the sprint distances. Tongans would also be fantastic at water polo - it would really suit the Tongan build and attitude."
So why is there no tradition of swimming in Tonga, when the Pacific Ocean is all around?
"I think it's mainly because nobody teaches them," says O'Shannassey. "It's a very religious country, and the ladies and girls tend to swim in full costumes - they don't like showing off any part of their bodies, so that might not help. The men and boys do enjoy getting in the water, but mainly just splashing about in the waves."
Tonga recently held its first open-water championships, over 1500m - or as O'Shannassey describes it, "from the main island to another island just across the way".
Unlike at the British equivalent, the biggest problem came not from fatigued muscles and lactic in the lats but the exotic local sea-life.
"There'd been a shark attack on a nearby island the week before, and a tourist lost a few toes or something," explains O'Shannassey in relaxed fashion. "But your biggest problem is the blue whales. If they've got a calf with them, it can make it quite interesting."
The dream of both coach and athlete is that a proper pool might be built in Tonga - nothing fancy like a 50m Olympic-sized one (the nearest of those is an hour and a half's flight away in Samoa), but a simple 25m.
O'Shannassey thinks it'll cost £1.25m (US$2m). He's hoping the United Nations might stump up some of that, on the basis that they offer funding to combat non-communicable disease, and Tonga has a high rate of diabetes that might be eased if more islanders could be encouraged into more regular exercise.
"I'm sure they'll embrace the idea," he says, with characteristic optimism.
In the meantime, Fonua takes part in his specialist event, the 50m breaststroke, on Thursday.
"I'm seeded seventh at the moment, and my goal coming here was to make a final. To move up a place in the rankings would be a bonus.
"It can be intimidating coming up against so many top-class swimmers. Cameron van der Burgh from South Africa is the world record holder over 50m, but my coach always tells I should stay relaxed. You have to compete against the best to be the best. It's intimidating but good.
"I can't really worry too much about the other guys - I just have to focus on myself, and getting from A to B and then to C.
"Sometimes you have a few curveballs thrown at you. I've certainly had a few this time."