Tonga, a small Island part of Polynesian, lived the typical, secluded, island life, devoid of the spotlight or hubbub social media brings, until the Rio 2016 Olympics when Pita Taufatofua, Tonga flag bearer, strutted out into the stadium bare-chested in a traditional dress of a ta’ovala, lathered in coconut oil at the opening ceremony parade of nations. This event drew great attention for Taufatofua and Tonga, making him an internet sensation overnight and garnering many opportunities, like his appearance in the Rio Closing Ceremony of the Olympics.
Taufatofua, 34, is an Australian born, Tonga raised Taekwondo athlete. With his great love and appreciation of his polynesian heritage, he felt a great calling to represent the island of Tonga. During the 2016 Oceania Taekwondo Olympic Qualification Tournament, Taufatofua earned himself a gold in his weight class. Through hard work in his sport, Taufatofua was able to qualify for the olympics.
However, Taufatofua fell behind greatly competing, and did not come home with a medal. Taufatofua did not let his loss bring him down as he was proud to have represented his country as the first Tongan in taekwondo.
“It’s an opportunity to get us out there in the world, it doesn’t matter where you are from, whether you are from Tonga, Samoa or from any other islands. I am excited that I have been blessed with this opportunity to be able to do this” Taufatofua said.
After Rio 2016, Taufatofua was determined to continue to showcase his home of Tonga. Prior to having no experience in the snow from his tropical weather conditions, Taufatofua pursued his goal of qualifying for the 2018 Winter Olympics as the first male Polynesian cross country skier. Taufatofua took great measures to complete this goal, and in only two years, he received support from a Gofundme. During the qualification process, Taufatofua fell short in seven attempts, however, on his eighth race on the last day of trials, he qualified .
“We sacrificed everything to be here. Financially I’m in the worst position ever but I’m the happiest ever,” Taufatofua said to the Olympic Channel.
As Pita Taufatofua brings pride and attention to the small island of Tonga as the first Polynesian cross-country skier in the 2018 Winter Olympics, this brings inspiration to others to pursue the impossible.