Oloa and Mata’u in historic tie for 2nd place
May 11, 2013 — After four nights of fire blazing, adrenaline-fueled battles, it was reigning champion Joseph Cadousteau of Papeete, Tahiti, who reclaimed the title at the 21st Annual World Fireknife Championship at the Polynesian Cultural Center.
Last year, Cadousteau became the first competitor to win the title for Tahiti. Also last year, Cadousteau was the first competitor in the event’s history to hold both the Open Division and Group Division championship titles simultaneously.
“It is such an honor to be recognized as a World Fireknife Champion again and to have competed against the best fireknife dancers from around the world,” said Cadousteau, who currently performs professionally at Disneyland Hong Kong. “The opportunity to compete for this title makes this competition the one that we, as fireknife dancers, look forward to every year. I am so thrilled to have been a part of this year’s competition and am very thankful for this award.”
The 33-year-old champion (pictured again at right) bested the two other finalists, four-time champion Mikaele Oloa of Waialua, Oahu (and formerly of Orlando, Florida) and finalist freshman Mālō “Mj” Mata’u.
“This year, the competition was so tight that for the first time in the competition’s history, a tie was awarded for second place,” said Samoan Village Chief and one of the event’s emcees, Steve Lāulu. “The level of talent and commitment that these competitors bring each year is truly what makes the World Fireknife Championships a world-renowned competition. These warriors are determined to master the cultural artistry of fireknife dancing, and it is reflected in their frighteningly courageous world class performances.”
Family members, friends and fans from around the globe were able to view every breathtaking move through PCC’s live stream on Worldfireknife.com. Hundreds of fans tuned in to watch the championships live from all over the world, including Samoa, New Zealand, California, New York and Florida. Also, the “People’s Choice Award,” which allowed fans to vote online for their favorite of the three finalists, went to Mikaele Oloa.
“Last year was the first time that we were able to offer a live stream of the competition and we received a tremendous response,” said Raymond Magalei, PCC’s Vice President of Sales and Marketing. “Not only were we able to showcase the art of fireknife dancing and the competition in real time, but it allowed us to share a piece of Polynesia with the rest of the world.”
The modern fireknife dance stems from the Samoan ailao, a warrior’s knife dance performed with the nifo oti or “tooth of death.” This dance was displayed before battle to frighten the enemy and, afterwards, to celebrate victory. Today, the art of fireknife has become one of the most intense, skillful and beautiful of Samoan traditions. The modern version consists of spinning a sharp knife with both ends ablaze at high speeds, and requires acute precision and acrobatic finesse. The fire is very real, and dancers often, and sometimes intentionally, make contact with the flames.
Competitors were judged on specific criteria including the vili tasi (one hand spin) and vili lua (two hand spin), among others. A full list of criteria can be found in the “Judging” tab of WorldFireknife.com. The “People’s Choice Award” was awarded purely on the number of online fan votes.
Senior Division (Total of 17 competitors)
Joseph Cadousteau, 33, of Papeete, Tahiti. (Cadousteau won the championship in 2012 and earned 2nd place in 2006, 2007, 2009 and 2010, as well as 3rd place in 2008.)
Tie for Second Place
Mikaele Oloa, 23, formerly of Florida and now lives in Waialua, Oahu. (Oloa won the title in 2005, 2006, 2009 and 2010 and earned 2nd place in 2008 and 2012. He also earned 1st place in the Open Group Division in 2008.)
Mālō “Mj” Mata’u, 19, of Laie, Oahu. (This was Mata’u’s first trip to the final round in the Open Division, but he won the Junior Championship title in 2011.)
Congratulating the winners (left-right): Valerie Grace, Mikaele Oloa, Joseph Cadousteau, Mālō “Mj” Mata’u and PCC President & CEO Alfred Grace
Junior Pacific Division
Ages 12-17: (Total of 16 competitors)
1st. Achilles Tafiti, Laie, HI
2nd. Hale Motuapuaka, Aiea, HI
3rd. Wallen Te’o, Honolulu, HI
Ages 6-11: (Total of 13 competitors)
1st. Dayton Daoang, Waipahu, Oahu
2nd. Aaliyah Ava, Laie, Oahu
3rd. Chandae Ava, Laie, Oahu
Open Group Competition (Total of two groups of competitors)
1st. KJ Ahloy, Quest Ava, Malik Ava, Alex Galea’i
2nd. Aaliyah Ava, Chandae Ava, Jeralee Galea’i
We Are Samoa
High School Cultural Arts Festival
In addition to the fireknife championship, the PCC also hosted the annual We Are Samoa High School Cultural Arts Festival today. The festival was founded by O’Brian Eselu as a venue to celebrate friendship and promote continued education of the Samoan culture among high school students and to exhibit their knowledge in an array of cultural arts, games, songs and dances of Samoa.
The Pacific Theater echoed with the sounds of music, singing and cheering in celebration. Students showed off their teamwork, going head-to-head in a variety of games based on daily Samoan life skills such as coconut husking, fire making and basket weaving. More than 600 students participated in this year’s festival, including Samoan cultural clubs from Castle High School, Kapolei High School, Kahuku High School, Waipahu High School, Radford High School and Farrington High School. (Additional students from other schools without Samoan clubs joined the Radford High group.)
The day culminated with a series of cultural dances, including the sasa (sitting dance) and mauluulu (girls dance). The highlight of each performance was the taupou or princess dance. Although the event focuses on traditional Samoan practices, students added their own modern flair.
The 21st Annual World Fireknife Championship and We Are Samoa High School Cultural Arts Festival are sponsored by Shirley F. Mataalii and the late Tauiliili Henry S. Mataalii, Turtle Bay Resort, Edwards Enterprises, Pepsi and Galumalemana Lester W.B. Moore and Les Steward, a long-time PCC senior manager who is retiring this year.
Credit for founding the event in 1993 goes to Pulefano Galea’i, a retired Polynesian Cultural Center senior manager who still consults on it. He also designed and makes the ceremonial nifo oti trophies.