By Kathleen Joyce, ,
Published February 09, 2018
A buff, bare-chested athlete from Tonga, who became a viral sensation after appearing as his country's flag bearer at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Summer Games, showed up in similar clothes ─ or lack of them ─ for the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang.
Pita Taufatofua, 34, rose to international fame less than two years ago after he walked shirtless and oiled-up into the opening ceremony of the Summer Games.
As his country's sole athlete at the Pyeongchang Games, Taufatofua braved below-freezing temperatures, donned a traditional Tongan skirt and once again carried his country's flag.
Taufatofua competed in taekwondo in Rio, and is back in South Korea competing in cross-country skiing, despite representing a tropical island nation where it doesn't snow.
The athlete, who only picked up the sport last year, trained by "running on sand dunes with wooden planks strapped to his feet," according to the Olympics' website.
"It's the hardest thing I've ever done," he said. "Taekwondo is intense, someone's trying to kick your head in. Skiing, you have pain for an hour. Do you like short pain or long pain? But I love them both."
Taufatofua was not concerned about the cold conditions in South Korea.
"I won't freeze. I am from Tonga. We sailed across the Pacific. This is nothing," he was quoted as saying, according to the Olympic news service. "It's a little bit warmer being in Rio than in here...but anytime you get to represent your country is a good time."
Even though the 2018 Winter Games just started, Taufatofua already has his eye on the 2020 Summer Games in Tokyo.
“Taekwondo and skiing, now they’re all in my blood,” he said to the Olympics' site. “I may go for the magic three [in Tokyo]. It’s never been done [by a Tongan] before.”
Meanwhile, athletes from Bermuda showed up to the frigid opening ceremony wearing a country staple: Bermuda shorts.
“That’s normal,’’ Dexter Smith, an editor of Bermuda’s Royal Gazette paper told USA Today. “At the Olympic Games, winter or summer, we’re pretty much famous for our Bermuda shorts…It’s not a novelty. Not by any stretch.’’
The Associated Press contributed to this report.