Published: Sat, February 10, 2018
Global Media | By Garry Long

Cold opening: The shirtless Tongan is back at the Olympics

Cold opening: The shirtless Tongan is back at the Olympics

Only the second Winter Olympian in Tonga's history, Pita Taufatofua is set to join an elite club of athletes to compete at the Summer and Winter Games, having represented his country in taekwondo at Rio 2016.

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"Every time I ski I die a little bit inside", he said recently, highlighting the grueling nature of cross country, considered to be of the most physically demanding disciplines on the Winter Games program.

"The dream this year was to qualify and to qualify in the year, that was the impossible dream - I guess I'm going in without pressure", he says. He's the first athlete from Tonga to appear in both the Summer and Winter Games, and he is also the country's only representative in South Korea. Expect Taufatofua to be dressed warmly while competing. Taufatofua, again carrying the Tongan flag, brought cheers from the crowd as he entered shirtless and glistening with oil - just as he did in the much warmer Rio opening ceremony.

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Since his Rio moment, he has turned down movie offers. He opted for the gruelling discipline of cross-country skiing because it was the "hardest" thing he could think of doing.

Taufatofua trained with roller skis due to the lack of snow in Tonga.

"This was the last day of the qualification process, this was my last race possible and we did it", the Australian-based athlete said.

While training, he would try to compensate for the lack of snow by strapping planks of wood to his feet and running on the beach. "But this is a distance sport where you have to hold this certain level of pain for up to an hour, then cross the finish line and you just die".

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