Rio's Flag-Bearing Hunk to Heat up Ski Slopes for Tonga at 2018 Winter Olympics
Sizzling Tonga taekwondo fighter Pita Taufatofua caught the world’s eye this summer when he carried his country’s flag (shirtless, totally oiled up and rocking a shell necklace!) at the Rio Olympics opening ceremony.
Unfortunately, the swoon-worthy fighter returned home medal-less and disappointed.
“It was one of my dreams, ever since I was a kid, to become an Olympian,” Taufatofua, 33, tells PEOPLE. “I wanted to become an Olympian, and a medalist. I wanted to try and get Tonga’s first ever gold medal! But it didn’t work out that way in Rio.”
Unfazed and more determined than ever, Taufatofua has decided to pick up a new seasonal sport in an attempt to nab gold for his beloved country — cross-country skiing. A winter sport, it should be noted, that he’s never actually tried!
“I wanna show people who aren’t into sport or are having struggles in their life, that they can do something completely new, completely out of their comfort zone, and enjoy that journey and get somewhere with it,” he says. “I’ve put on the skis for 4 minutes, 3 minutes, just for some of the press release and that sort of thing, but I’ve never really put skis on in my life!”
Tonga, a Polynesian kingdom made up of around 170 islands, is known for their strong rugby team — but Taufatofua knows he can make a name for himself in skiing.
“If I go into training, doesn’t matter what sport, the mentality will always be to train as though I’m chasing down that gold medal,” he explains. “People say, ‘Man you’re crazy!’ It’s like yeah, I am, but you can be crazy and you can achieve as well. And that’s what I want to show people. I want them to come on the journey, and I want them to be a part of this as well.
“But make no mistake, I’m going to be hunting down that gold medal!”
Taufatofua will train in Germany and Austria in preparation for the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics.
We just have one question — can he please ski shirtless?