Pita Taufatofua

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Pita Taufatofua
Pita Taufatofua Rio2016.jpg
Taufatofua at the 2016 Olympics
Personal information
Full namePita Nikolas Taufatofua
Nickname(s)Tonga Flag Bearer
Born (1983-11-05) 5 November 1983 (age 35)
ResidenceBrisbane, Queensland, Australia
EducationTonga Side School
Tonga High School
Saint Peter's Lutheran College, Brisbane (graduated 2000)
Height1.92 m (6 ft 3 12 in)
Weight100 kg (220 lb)
Cross-country skiing
Coached byVasini Piu
Paul Sitapa
(Both for Taekwondo)[1]

Pita Nikolas Taufatofua (born 5 November 1983) is a Tongan taekwondo practitioner and skier who lives in Australia.[2][3] 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.

Early life[edit]

Taufatofua was born in Australia[2][3] on 5 November 1983[4] and raised in Tonga.[3] He attended Tonga Side School and Tonga High School,[5] and graduated from Saint Peter's Lutheran College in Brisbane in 2000.[6] His father is Tongan and his mother is Australian of British descent.[5] He began taekwondo at age five.[7] His childhood included such traditional Tongan activities as Saturday farmwork harvesting cassava.[8]

Sports career[edit]

Taekwondo career[edit]

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".[8]

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.[9] He had previously tried to qualify for the Olympics on two occasions.[2] He was the first athlete from Tonga to compete in the Olympics in taekwondo.[3] He was Tonga's flagbearer for the opening ceremony.[2]

2016 Summer Olympics[edit]

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,[10] but it became apparent that he had applied copious amounts of oil to his torso.[2][3][11][12] Taufatofua's shirtless, oiled-up appearance garnered him fame on social media as footage of his appearance went viral.[3]

During the taekwondo tournament, Taufatofua was eliminated in his first bout by the Iranian Sajjad Mardani once the score escalated to 16-1.[13] 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.[14]

Cross-country skiing career[edit]

In December 2016, Taufatofua posted a video announcing his plans to train and compete in cross-country skiing.[15] He began learning form and technique by watching YouTube videos of professional races.[16] 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.[17] 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.[18][19] He is the second Tongan to compete in the Winter Olympics, after 2014 luger Bruno Banani.[18]

2018 Winter Olympics[edit]

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.[20]

On Friday 16 February 2018, he completed the 15km freestyle race, coming in 114th place out of 119 skiers.[21]

Personal life[edit]

Taufatofua lives in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia, where he trains six hours a day.[22] He works at Sandgate House training homeless children to develop independent living skills.[23]

He has an engineering degree and is working on his master's degree.[8] He has also worked as a model since he was eighteen.[8]


  1. ^ Pita Nikolas Taufatofua Archived 23 August 2016 at the Wayback Machine.. nbcolympics.com
  2. ^ a b c d e Martin Rogers; Dan Wolken (5 August 2016). "Introducing the Tonga flagbearer who glistened during Rio Olympic opening ceremony". USA Today. Archived from the original on 6 August 2016. Retrieved 6 August 2016.
  3. ^ a b c d e f Palazzo, Chiara (6 August 2016). "Opening Ceremony: Who is Tonga's bare-chested flag bearer?". The Telegraph. Archived from the original on 6 August 2016. Retrieved 6 August 2016.
  4. ^ "Pita Nikolas Taufatofua". Rio 2016. Archived from the original on 6 August 2016. Retrieved 6 August 2016.
  5. ^ a b "Pita Taufatofua". Coconet. Archived from the original on 9 August 2016. Retrieved 6 August 2016.
  6. ^ "St. Peter's Lutheran College (official)". Facebook. 7 August 2016. Archived from the original on 10 February 2018.
  7. ^ "Tonga's Taekwondo Olympian welcomed home". Nuku'alofa Times. 15 March 2016. Archived from the original on 19 April 2016. Retrieved 9 April 2016.
  8. ^ a b c d Tonga, Matangi (4 August 2016). "Painful Road to Rio". The Fiji Times. Archived from the original on 11 August 2016. Retrieved 7 August 2016.
  9. ^ "Tonga's Pita Taufatofua qualifies for Rio Olympic". Loop Tonga. 2 March 2016. Archived from the original on 15 April 2016. Retrieved 7 April 2016.
  10. ^ "Internet in a frenzy over Olympic flag-bearer Pita Taufatofua". NY Daily News. Retrieved 2018-02-10.
  11. ^ "Der heimliche Held kam im speziellen Röckchen". Die Welt (in German). 6 August 2016. Archived from the original on 7 August 2016. Retrieved 6 August 2016.
  12. ^ Aleythe, Saskia (6 August 2016). "Gut eingeölter Halb-Nackedei". Süddeutsche Zeitung (in German). Archived from the original on 9 August 2016. Retrieved 6 August 2016.
  13. ^ Tonga flag-bearer Pita Taufatofua making the most of unexpected Olympic fame Archived 20 October 2017 at the Wayback Machine.
  14. ^ Oily flag bearer makes shiny comeback at Olympics Closing Ceremony Archived 23 December 2016 at the Wayback Machine.
  15. ^ "Tonga flag bearer Pita Taufatofua eyes 2018 Winter Olympics". NBC Sports. 5 December 2016. Archived from the original on 6 January 2018.
  16. ^ Grez, Matias (9 February 2018). "Tonga's famous flag bearer Pita Taufatofua achieves his impossible dream". CNN.
  17. ^ Robinson, Joshua; Cohen, Ben. "Remember the Shirtless Tongan Flag-Bearer? He's Now a Cross-Country Skier". Wall Street Journal. Archived from the original on 4 January 2018. Retrieved 4 January 2018.
  18. ^ a b Zaccardi, Nick (20 January 2018). "Tonga flag bearer from Rio qualifies for Winter Olympics". www.olympics.nbcsports.com/. NBC Sports. Archived from the original on 21 January 2018. Retrieved 20 January 2018.
  19. ^ Gartland, Dan (20 January 2018). "Shirtless Tongan Flag-Bearer Qualifys for Winter Olympics". www.si.com/. Time Inc. Sports Illustrated Group. Archived from the original on 20 January 2018. Retrieved 20 January 2018.
  20. ^ Rogers, Martin (9 February 2018). "Despite frigid temperatures, Tonga's flag bearer shows up shirtless again at Winter Olympics opening ceremony". USA Today. Archived from the original on 10 February 2018. Retrieved 9 February 2018.
  21. ^ "Winter Olympics: Tonga's Pita Taufatofua avoids last place in cross country skiing". BBC Sport. 2018-02-16. Retrieved 2018-02-16.
  22. ^ Lubin, Rhian (6 August 2016). "Topless Tonga flag bearer Pita Taufatofua sends fans wild walking into Olympic stadium ceremony covered in baby oil". The Mirror. Archived from the original on 7 August 2016. Retrieved 6 August 2016.
  23. ^ Burke, Timothy. "Tongan Flag-Bearer Pita Taufatofua Owns The Olympics". Deadspin. Archived from the original on 7 August 2016. Retrieved 7 August 2016.

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