Tongan Skiier Pita Taufatofua Makes Olympic Debut

Tongan Skiier Pita Taufatofua Makes Olympic Debut

Having learnt his trade by strapping two wooden planks to his legs and running up sandhills, he then took advantage of a odd loophole that means roller ski races count as official Olympic qualification events.

"The 15 kilometre never works out so well for me, I always gas out by about the second kilometre", he told reporters with a smile. "Relieved. I mean, that was a long race".

He had also only experienced snow for a total of 12 weeks throughout his entire life before this year's Games, he added. "We fought together, we finished together", the 34-year-old said.

Having competed in Taekwondo at Rio 2016 and caused a stir by appearing oiled up and topless at the opening ceremony (a trick he repeated in freezing Pyeongchang), Taufatofua crossed the line in 114th position.

Taufatofua hasn't just vowed to continue his trek toward Olympic prominence in skiing as he moves beyond South Korea, though.

Tonga's bare-chested flag-bearer Pita Taufatofua crossed the finish line in 114th place, nearly 23 minutes after the victor in the Olympic men's 15km freestyle race on Friday, but he still claimed a moral victory.

Taufatofua competed in taekwondo at Rio and lost in the first round, but gained an adoring worldwide fan base for his Rio entrance wearing traditional Tongan costume.

Pita Taufatofua and other racers greet Madrazo as he completes his race
Tongan Skiier Pita Taufatofua Makes Olympic Debut

His sense of relief was palpable after he finished in one piece.

As he was nearing the finish line, Taufatofua thought to himself, "Please God, not in front of everyone - don't give me my first fall".

That was just under 23 minutes behind gold-medal victor Dario Cologna from Switzerland.

"But I finished with the guys and that was important for me".

"Everyone was at the front racing to come first", said Taufatofua, who is a social worker for children when not taking his clothes off or trying out new Olympic sports.

So, as skiers from Switzerland, Norway and the country we are not allowed to call Russian Federation occupied the medal positions, Taufatofua found himself in a rather different battle "not to come last".

"Yes, that's one of my goals". We'll see. High jumping?

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