Fireknife champion uses past as motivation
Falaniko Penesa of Apia, Samoa, used his second-place finish at last year’s World Fireknife Championship to fuel his dedication to return for this year’s event, where he bested five-time champion Mikaele Oloa of Waialua last weekend at the Polynesian Cultural Center.
Oloa, 27, was the defending champion, and Penesa’s margin of victory, based on scoring by seven judges, was one point. The winner received $7,500 and a trophy knife. Kepanipaa Damaso, 30, of Waikoloa, Hawaii island, finished third. Penesa, 26, who performs at Hong Kong Disneyland, said he spent the past year “practicing every day to make my moves flow,” according to a news release. He dazzled the sold-out crowd with an exciting routine that had him spinning, twirling and juggling fireknives behind his back and overhead, accompanied by the pounding beat of 11 Polynesian drummers. Now in its 25th year, the World Fireknife Championship was established by the Polynesian Cultural Center to showcase the traditional Samoan warrior knife dance performed with the “nifo oti,” or “deadly tooth.” The three-day competition featured 18 fireknife dancers from Samoa, Japan, Tahiti, California, Florida and Hawaii competing in the elite Senior Division.
First, Matagi Lilo,
11, Ewa Beach, $300 prize and trophy knife; second, Mose Lilo, 9, Ewa Beach; third, Isaako Milford, 11, Hauula.
>> First, Jeralee Galeai, 16, Laie, $800 and trophy knife; second, Justyce Edmonds, 17, Sydney; third, Hunter Nery, 16, Waialua.
Junior Division (ages 6 to 11): Intermediate Division (ages 12 to 17): Falaniko Penesa won this year’s World Fireknife Championship at the Polynesian Cultural Center.