No, the Shirtless Tongan Flag Bearer Won't Be at the Winter Olympics: 'I Have Another Task'

Pita Taufatofua first went viral for representing Tonga as a flag bearer while shirtless and oiled-up during the 2016 Olympic Games Opening Ceremony

Pita Taufatofua of Tonga
Pita Taufatofua. Photo: OLIVIER MORIN/AFP via Getty

Don't expect to see Tongan Olympian Pita Taufatofua walking around shirtless and oiled-up at the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics.

In an Instagram post this week, the 38-year-old athlete announced he is not taking part in the Winter Olympics, which kick off Friday.

Taufatofua first made headlines when he dressed in traditional garb as a flag bearer for Tonga during the Olympic Games Opening Ceremony in Rio, Brazil. Since then, the taekwondo and cross-country skiing athlete has competed in three consecutive Winter and Summer Games and become an Olympic staple that spectators look forward to.

"Three Olympics in a row I have been blessed with all of your kindness. The last two years, competition and travel has been non-existent. Not everything is in our control. That said I embrace both the good and the bad as part of life, and I do so with a smile. This time I will not be sharing the Beijing Olympic Games with you all. But I continue with joy as I prepare to support all the Olympians who have worked so hard to represent their countries," he wrote on Instagram.

Explaining why he will not be taking part in the Olympic Games, Taufatofua said he has another "task" that needs his attention.

Listen below to an interview with Pita Taufatofua on our daily podcast PEOPLE Every Day.

"Right now I have another task that calls me, I must answer. But make no mistake my sword is sharp and my mind is ready. I am just getting started. We have something up our sleeve, an idea, a feat, a dream. It lives next to the impossible, a place that excites me," he said.

He continued, "Somewhere inside each and every one of you there is an Olympian."

During the 2016 Rio Games, Taufatofua competed in taekwondo. Then in 2018, he made history as Tonga's first Winter Olympics athlete while taking part in cross-country skiing during the Pyeongchang Games, Today reported. He competed in taekwondo again during the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo last summer. Throughout all three of those Olympic Games, Taufatofua represented his country as a flag bearer, the news outlet added.

RELATED VIDEO: Tongan Olympian Pita Taufatofua on Becoming Viral Sensation: "I Feel So Proud ... Even If It Comes With Oil and Memes"

For Taufatofua, taking part in the Olympics has also been about representing Tonga, a Polynesian archipelago located in the South Pacific.

Speaking to PEOPLE during the Tokyo Games, Taufatofua said, "It was important for me to represent culture and heritage … where we are, where we come from."

He added, "I have the honor to be one of the many people to be seen, to do that, to represent everyone from the pacific."

Marianna Massey/Getty.

Most recently, he has been busy raising money for the victims of a tsunami that hit his country in January. Taufatofua launched a GoFundMe campaign shortly after the eruption of an underwater volcano last month that caused a tsunami to hit Tonga.

"As you all know a large Tsunami caused by a volcanic eruption has devastated Tonga," he wrote on the fundraising page.

"The eruption occurred in Haapai and spread through to all islands," he continued. "Initial reports of damage have been catastrophic and all communications with Tonga have been wiped out. In preparation and through the recovery efforts we are seeking your donations to help our island Kingdom."

To learn more about all the Olympic and Paralympic hopefuls, visit Watch the Winter Olympics, beginning Feb 3, and the Paralympics, beginning March 4, on NBC.

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