PHOTOS: Tongan flag bearer steals show at Opening Ceremony

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The Opening Ceremony at the Olympic Games gives viewers the opportunity to learn a little about many of the nations competing, thanks in part to the parade of nations into the Olympic Stadium. The interesting outfits worn by the competitors makes for entertaining conversation, but in the case of one flag bearer it was his lack of clothing that made for spirited conversation.

32-year old Pita Nikolas Taufatofua, who fell short in his goal to qualify for the Olympics in taekwondo twice before accomplishing that goal for Rio, led Tonga’s delegation into the Maracanã Stadium Friday night wearing the traditional ta’ovala (Tongan mat).

On a night in which multiple delegations donned interesting traditional outfits, it was the man with an oiled-up body wearing a ta’ovala who stole the show on social media. According to USA TODAY, the idea of wearing the nation’s traditional outfit was Taufatofua’s alone.

“This is the first time Tonga has done something like that,” Taufatofua’s friend Jacinta Sitapa told USA TODAY Friday night. “It was important to Pita. He is very patriotic and loves Tongan culture. He didn’t know if he was going to be picked to carry the flag, but if he did he strongly felt that it should be something that represented the country.”

Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images
Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images
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Paul Gilham/Getty Images
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Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Olympian Derrick Mein ends U.S. men’s trap drought at shotgun worlds

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Tokyo Olympian Derrick Mein became the first U.S. male shooter to win a world title in the trap event since 1966, prevailing at the world shotgun championships in Osijek, Croatia, on Wednesday.

Mein, who grew up on a small farm in Southeast Kansas, hunting deer and quail, nearly squandered a place in the final when he missed his last three shots in the semifinal round after hitting his first 22. He rallied in a sudden-death shoot-off for the last spot in the final by hitting all five of his targets.

He hit 33 of 34 targets in the final to win by two over Brit Nathan Hales with one round to spare.

The last U.S. man to win an Olympic trap title was Donald Haldeman in 1976.

Mein, 37, was 24th in his Olympic debut in Tokyo (and placed 13th with Kayle Browning in the mixed-gender team event).

The U.S. swept the Tokyo golds in the other shotgun event — skeet — with Vincent Hancock and Amber English. Browning took silver in women’s trap.

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Mo Farah withdraws before London Marathon

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British track legend Mo Farah withdrew before Sunday’s London Marathon, citing a right hip injury before what would have been his first 26.2-mile race in nearly two years.

Farah, who swept the 2012 and 2016 Olympic track titles at 5000m and 10,000m, said he hoped “to be back out there” next April, when the London Marathon returns to its traditional month after COVID moved it to the fall for three consecutive years. Farah turns 40 on March 23.

“I’ve been training really hard over the past few months and I’d got myself back into good shape and was feeling pretty optimistic about being able to put in a good performance,” in London, Farah said in a press release. “However, over the past 10 days I’ve been feeling pain and tightness in my right hip. I’ve had extensive physio and treatment and done everything I can to be on the start line, but it hasn’t improved enough to compete on Sunday.”

Farah switched from the track to the marathon after the 2017 World Championships and won the 2018 Chicago Marathon in a then-European record time of 2:05:11. Belgium’s Bashir Abdi now holds the record at 2:03:36.

Farah returned to the track in a failed bid to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics, then shifted back to the roads.

Sunday’s London Marathon men’s race is headlined by Ethiopians Kenenisa Bekele and Birhanu Legese, the second- and third-fastest marathoners in history.

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