Meet Pita Taufatofua: Shirtless Tongan athlete the world’s talking about

Road to the Olympics

PYEONGCHANG-GUN, SOUTH KOREA – FEBRUARY 09: Flag bearer Pita Taufatofua of Tonga leads the team during the Opening Ceremony of the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympic Games at PyeongChang Olympic Stadium on February 9, 2018 in Pyeongchang-gun, South Korea. (Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)

There were nearly 2,800 athletes representing 90 countries around the world, but it was the shirtless Tongan flag-bearer that everyone’s talking about.

Pita Taufatofua doesn’t think it’s weird that the world knows him as the shirtless Tongan flag-bearer.

[WATCH: Taufatofua talks about competing in Winter Olympics]

“No, I think it sort of all goes back to Rio. So it’s not anything too new for me,” said Taufatofua.
The only difference was that when Taufatofua went shirtless in Rio, it was during the 2016 Summer Olympics. In Pyeongchang, temperatures were well-below freezing for the opening ceremonies for the 2018 Winter Olympics.

“Well Tonga doesn’t have seasons. We don’t have winter and summer. We only have one season. We don’t have a winter outfit. That’s our winter and our summer outfit. For 1000 years our ancestors went through the Pacific on canoes. Five minutes in a stadium is nothing,” said Taufatofua.

Despite being from the tiny (but warm) archipelago country of Tonga, Taufatofua said he’s not here as a sideshow. He’s here to compete as a cross-country skier.

But if you’re wondering if he’ll compete shirtless…

“I think the goal is to stay alive during the race. I could be out there for a while. Definitely I’ll be wearing a race suit. If I win a medal, definitely I’ll be on the podium shirtless. But I’ll probably be at the other end. I just qualified so I’m happy to be here.”

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