Pita Taufatofua

Tonga's Taufatofua says Winter Olympics dream still alive

The 33-year-old made global headlines as Tonga's flagbearer at the Rio Olympics last year.

He announced in December he was taking a break from taekwondo and putting on skis in an attempt to qualify for February's Winter Games in Pyeongchang.

Taufatofua finished 153rd of 156 competitors in the men's sprint qualification race at the World Championships in February.

The Oceania Championship taekwondo gold medallist said skiing was far removed from his island background.

Tongan flagbearer has tough introduction to cross country skiing

Pita Taufatofua who competed in taekwondo in Rio gained plenty of international attention at the Rio opening ceremony, when he oiled himself up to carry the Tongan flag bare-chested into the stadium.

Now he's trying to qualify for the 2018 Winter Olympics.

He only took up cross country skiing a month ago and has competed at the word champs in Finland finishing 153rd in the 156 strong field.

His time in the 1.6km sprint freestyle qualification was 5 minutes 44 seconds more than two and a half minutes slower than the top qualifier.


Taufatofua not giving up taekwondo despite Winter Olympics bid

The 33-year-old Oceania champion made global headlines following his shirtless entrance at the Rio Olympics opening ceremony in August.

RNZ reports he announced this week he was taking up cross-country skiing in an attempt to qualify for the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea, despite having never skied before.

Taufatofua joins growing list of Tongans bidding for Winter Olympics

The 33-year-old Oceania taekwondo champion became a global sensation following his shirtless entrance at the Rio Olympics opening ceremony in August.

Taufatofua admitted he still didn't know how to ski but said he liked to challenge himself.

"A couple of years ago I had my first experience in the snow," he said.

"It wasn't skiing - I didn't put on skis until yesterday for all of five minutes - but the Winter Olympics is coming up in 2018 and I'd fallen in love with snow.

Tongan athlete Taufatofua sees brighter prospects after Olympic Games

He is flying to Los Angeles to talk to managers and agents next week.

Taufatofua said he spent all his time in Rio doing interviews after his spectacular appearance in the Olympic opening ceremony, but that he sued the opportunity to promote Tonga.

“Each of those interviews was me getting Tonga out to the world,” he told Matangi Tonga.

Taufatofua, who represented the kingdom in Taekwondo at the Rio Games, is meeting with officials and visiting friends and family on Tongatapu as well as Ha’apai.

Tongan flag bearer strips off on catwalk at Pacific Fashion show

At the Pacific Fusion Fashion Show in east Auckland last weekend, Taufatofua wore fashion pieces inspired by Pacific motifs with Western trends.

There were squeals from the crowd as he stripped off to show his rock hard abs and chiselled pecs - already beloved around the world thanks to his appearance during the Rio Olympics Opening Ceremony.

The 32-year-old Taekwondo competitor sent social media into a frenzy after his oiled-up, shirtless walk as flag bearer wowed crowds.

Tonga keen to capitalise on Pita Taufatofua

The 32 year old was the talk of the Rio Games after his shirtless, coconut oil fuelled displays at the Opening and Closing Ceremonies.

Tongan Olympian Taufatofua sets his sight on Tokyo 2020

Kaniva news reports instead of the black costume he wore in the opening ceremony, Taukatofua wore an outfit featuring the word ‘Tonga’ in red.

The taekwondo competitor joined Julia Michaels and Kygo’s performance of their hit “Carry Me,” dancing as rain fell on the Maracana stadium.

Taufatofua also joined fellow athletes with Japanese wrestler Kaori Icho, swimmer Yusra Mardini, representing the Refugee Olympic Team and Syria, Brazilian gymnast Arthur Mariano and runner Shaun Miller of the Bahamas.

Analysis: How Can Tonga Exploit Rio Olympics Exposure?

This is more than the Tonga Ministry of Tourism could have bargained for; but will they know how to capitalize on Taufatofua’s fame?

Carrying the Tongan flag shirtless wearing only a shiny coconut-oily skin, the Tongan heavyweight taekwondo fighter scored a double knockout punch of all flag carriers in both the the opening and closing ceremonies. Taufatofua became an instant celebrity, although he was not so lucky on the taekwondo mat.

Tonga's shirtless flag-bearer Pita Taufatofua gets towelled in taekwando

Pita Taufatofua, ranked 157th in the world, had an unfortunate pairing in the first round with the division's No 2 seed, Sajjad Mardani of Iran.

Mardani demolished Taufatofua 16-1 amid fans chanting "Tonga!" in the arena. Taufatofua described his opponent's attacking leg as "a nightmare" and said his slow start in the fight cost him.

He said he wasn't expecting the enormous reaction to his appearance in the opening ceremony and hinted that he might have something special - but quick - planned for the closing celebrations.