Pita Taufatofua made a name for himself at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games opening ceremony.
Pita Taufatofua made a name for himself at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games opening ceremony. TATYANA ZENKOVICH

Pita says it's grave or glory at Winter Olympics

A TONGAN cross-country skier could be the most determined athlete at next month's Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang.

Pita Taufatofua took up the brutal cross-country skiing after losing his first-round taekwondo match at the 2016 Rio Olympics.

"After Rio I decided to find the hardest sport possible because I needed a new challenge,” he said.

"You've got to put your body through something really challenging and the goal was to do it in one year - and we did it in one year!”

Taufatofua became famous as Tonga's bare-chested, oiled flagbearer at the Rio Olympics in 2016.

The 34-year-old, who is 15kg lighter than his taekwondo days, is the first Tongan skier to qualify for the Winter Olympics.

Taufatofua took up cross-country skiing following a disappointing first-round defeat in the taekwondo in Rio.

He left it late to qualify for Pyeongchang, leaving it to his last race in Iceland to collect the points he needed.

"I thought there's one race left, it's the end of the world, in the Arctic circle. I thought, 'I have to give it my all. It's grave or glory' and I gave it absolutely everything.

"Financially, I am in the worst position ever but I am the happiest ever.”

Sounds like a follow-up to the Cool Runnings movie about the Jamaican bobsled team.


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