Taufatofua at the 2016 Olympics
|Full name||Pita Nikolas Taufatofua|
|Nickname(s)||Tonga Flag Bearer|
|Born||5 November 1983|
|Residence||Brisbane, Queensland, Australia|
|Education||Tonga Side School|
Tonga High School
Saint Peter's Lutheran College, Brisbane (graduated 2000)
|Height||1.92 m (6 ft 3 1⁄2 in)|
|Weight||100 kg (220 lb)|
|Coached by||Vasini Piu|
(Both for Taekwondo)
Pita Nikolas Taufatofua (born 5 November 1983) is a Tongan taekwondo practitioner and skier who lives in Australia. Taufatofua became widely known after footage of his appearance at the opening ceremony for the 2016 Summer Olympics oiled and shirtless went viral. He was flagbearer for Tonga in both the 2016 Olympics and 2018 Winter Olympics.
Taufatofua was born in Australia on 5 November 1983 and raised in Tonga. He attended Tonga Side School and Tonga High School, and graduated from Saint Peter's Lutheran College in Brisbane in 2000. His father is Tongan and his mother is Australian of British descent. He began taekwondo at age five. His childhood included such traditional Tongan activities as Saturday farmwork harvesting cassava.
In the course of his career he has experienced, by one account, "six broken bones, three torn ligaments, three months in a wheelchair, a year and a half on crutches and hundreds of hours of physiotherapy".
At the 2016 Oceania Taekwondo Olympic Qualification Tournament in February in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea, he won his semi-final 4-3 before winning in the final against the 15th ranked fighter in the world to qualify for the 2016 Olympics. He had previously tried to qualify for the Olympics on two occasions. He was the first athlete from Tonga to compete in the Olympics in taekwondo. He was Tonga's flagbearer for the opening ceremony.
2016 Summer Olympics
Taufatofua appeared as Tonga's flag bearer in the Parade of Nations during the Olympics opening ceremony, which was held on 5 August 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. During the parade, he wore nothing but a taʻovala (a Tongan mat which is wrapped around the waist), with his face and torso appearing noticeably shiny. Initially, many assumed that he was sweating profusely, but it became apparent that he had applied copious amounts of oil to his torso. Taufatofua's shirtless, oiled-up appearance garnered him fame on social media as footage of his appearance went viral.
During the taekwondo tournament, Taufatofua was eliminated in his first bout by the Iranian Sajjad Mardani once the score escalated to 16-1. Taufatofua made an appearance at the closing ceremony of the games, showing up after a musical number in the same costume he wore during the Parade of Nations.
Cross-country skiing career
In December 2016, Taufatofua posted a video announcing his plans to train and compete in cross-country skiing. He began learning form and technique by watching YouTube videos of professional races. In January 2018, the Wall Street Journal reported he was one race away from qualifying for the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, having completed most of his qualification requirements in roller ski races and only needing to make a final qualifying time on snow. Taufatofua joined forces with skiers German Madrazo of Mexico and Yonathan Fernandez of Chile to form an independent training group that rented a cabin in Austria to train on snow and travel together to races. After slow finishes in seven snow races throughout January, Taufatofua's last opportunity was a race on January 20 in Ísafjörður, Iceland. Taufatofua, Madrazo, and Fernandez almost missed the race due to road closures from snowstorms and an avalanche, but ultimately Taufatofua succeeded in qualifying for the 2018 Winter Olympics in the Iceland race on the final day of the qualification period. He is the second Tongan to compete in the Winter Olympics, after 2014 luger Bruno Banani.
2018 Winter Olympics
As the only representative of Tonga in the 2018 Winter Olympics, Taufatofua was again the flagbearer for his country in the 2018 Winter Olympics Parade of Nations. Despite the temperatures being below freezing – and telling the media before the ceremony that he would not walk shirtless – he again wore nothing but a traditional ta’ovala mat wrapped around his waist, baring an oiled chest and torso.
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