Getty Images

Tonga flag bearer debuts at cross-country skiing world championships

Leave a comment

Tonga’s famous flag bearer from the Rio Olympics made his cross-country skiing competition debut at the world championships on Thursday, a step as he hopes to compete in PyeongChang.

His first race, after taking up the sport a month ago, went about as expected.

Pita Taufatofua was 153rd of 156 finishers in the 1.6km sprint freestyle qualification. Full results are here.

It took Taufatofua 5 minutes, 44.72 seconds to complete the course in Lahti, Finland, which is about 10,000 miles from Tonga. The top qualifier clocked 3:11.72.

Taufatofua managed to beat two skiers from Venezuela and one from Montenegro but fell well short of the cutoff to advance to the quarterfinals. That’s typically the top 30 skiers.

“In terms of what I have to develop, pretty much everything,” Taufatofua said one month ago in an Olympic Channel interview. “I’m coming from the beginning, absolute beginner.”

Taufatofua could qualify for the PyeongChang Olympics next winter because cross-country skiing is inclusive at the Winter Games. For Sochi, skiers qualified from Bermuda, Brazil, Dominica and Togo.

In Rio, Taufatofua lost his opening Olympic taekwondo match by mercy rule, two weeks after his shirtless, oiled-up appearance in the Opening Ceremony.

In 2014, Bruno Banani became the first Tongan to compete at a Winter Olympics, placing 32nd in men’s luge. He was later the subject of a documentary. Banani gained fame starting in early 2012, when the story of his name was widely publicized. Banani’s real name is Fuahea Semi, but he changed it to the name of his German clothing sponsor as a marketing ploy.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: PyeongChang 2018 daily schedule highlights

Tonga flag bearer Pita Taufatofua eyes 2018 Winter Olympics

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Tonga’s famous flag bearer, Pita Taufatofua, said he wants to compete at the 2018 Winter Olympics as a cross-country skier.

“I’m going to be taking my Olympic dream one step further,” Taufatofua said in an Olympic Channel video published Monday. “My goal is to let people see, if I can do it, they can do it. The goal is to hunt down that Olympic medal at the 2018 Olympics.”

Sure enough, Taufatofua already has an International Ski Federation bio page. The federation lists one other Tongan cross-country skier with a bio, Makeleta Stephan, who was last of 93 finishers in a 2015 World Championships event.

In 2014, Bruno Banani became the first Tongan to compete at a Winter Olympics, placing 32nd in men’s luge. He was later the subject of a documentary. Banani gained fame starting in early 2012, when the story of his name was widely publicized. Banani’s real name is Fuahea Semi, but he changed it to the name of his German clothing sponsor as a marketing ploy.

Taufatofua lost his opening Olympic taekwondo match by mercy rule in Rio, two weeks after his his shirtless, oiled-up appearance in the Opening Ceremony.

Judging by the Olympic Channel video, Taufatofua’s chances of qualifying for the Olympics look better for Tokyo 2020 than Pyeongchang 2018.

PHOTOS: Tongan flag bearer steals show at Opening Ceremony

Tonga flag bearer Pita Taufatofua goes shirtless at fashion show

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Tongan flag bearer Pita Taufatofua strutted on a catwalk, shirtless, at the Pacific Fusion Fashion Show in Auckland, New Zealand, on Saturday.

“We were right behind Pita in his lead up to Rio,” show director Nora Swann said, according to the New Zealand Herald. “We secured him as a model for our show before he broke the internet at the Olympics.

“He has been getting invitations from all over the world and we were concerned he might not be available for our show. But he assured us that he honours his commitments. We just feel privileged that he will be on our runway.”

Taufatogua said in a video interview at the fashion show that he has received marriage proposals from men and women since his oiled-up appearance at the Rio Olympic Opening Ceremony.

PHOTOS: Tonga flag bearer steals show at Opening Ceremony

#pita #pacificfusionfashionshow #pffs #tonganflagbearer

A post shared by Megan Alatini (@megan_alatini) on