He’s back. And he’s still shirtless and glistening.
Tonga’s Pita Taufatofua caught the world’s eye when he showed up to the Winter Olympics Opening Ceremony bare-chested, oiled-up, and waving his country’s flag — again. But this time, he wore the traditional Tongan garb in Pyeongchang’s freezing temperatures.
The 6’ 3’’, 190-pound 34-year-old became the Olympics’ preeminent dgafer when he gave himself the same introduction before the 2016 Summer Olympics Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where he competed in taekwondo. This year, however, he’s cross-country skiing — despite hailing from a Polynesian kingdom with approximately zero snowfall. Taufatofua is his country’s first and lone competitor in the event. And he’s only the second Tongan ever to compete in the Winter Olympics.
"Do you like short pain or long pain? But I love them both."
"It's the hardest thing I've ever done," Taufatofua told the Olympic news service. "Taekwondo is intense. Someone's trying to kick your head in. Skiing, you have pain for an hour. Do you like short pain or long pain? But I love them both."
Taufatofua only started skiing last year and secured his spot in a last-ditch qualifying round. Before clocking just four weeks of training in actual snow, Taufatofua practiced by roller skiing, which he called “quite possibly the worst thing ever invented.”
It’s like rollerblading … but on wood planks, and you can’t’ stop.
Taufatofua didn’t medal in Rio and left in the first-round. But he still wanted a new challenge. He turned down modeling, acting, and sponsorship offers to pursue competing in the 2018 Winter Games.
“After Rio, I decided to find the hardest sport possible, because I needed a new challenge, and the hardest sport possible was cross-country skiing,” Taufatofua said.
Worried about Pyeongchang’s chilly climate, where temperatures dipped into the 20s on Friday, Taufatofua originally said he wouldn’t wear his country’s traditional garb, a grass skirt called a Taʻovala. But in a moment of clarity, he decided to give the people what they want.
“I won’t freeze. I am from Tonga,” he said before the opening ceremony. “We sailed across the Pacific. This is nothing!”
Maybe Russia can finally wash its hands clean of that doping scandal on his abs.