- Pita Taufatofua became a viral sensation when he walked shirtless and oiled up as Tonga’s flag bearer in the 2016 Rio Olympics.
- The 35-year-old then learned cross-country skiing so that he could represent his country in the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
- Appearing on the “Today” show on Monday morning, Taufatofua announced his intentions to try to compete in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics as a sprint kayaker.
- “My goal is to be the first person to make [the Olympics in] three new sports,” he said.
The shirtless Tonga flag bearer is hoping to qualify for a third straight Olympics.
Pita Taufatofua appeared on the “Today” show Monday morning and announced his plans to try to compete in sprint kayaking at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.
The 35-year-old caused a splash when he walked shirtless and oiled up as his country’s flag bearer in the 2016 Rio Olympics Opening Ceremony.
— TODAY (@TODAYshow) April 29, 2019
Competing at the time in Taekwondo, Taufatofua was eliminated in his first bout. But he decided to learn a new sport in order to make the following Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang. Despite hailing from a tropical island nation without any snow, Taufatofua learned cross-country skiing and became the first skier to represent Tonga in the Olympics, finishing 114 out of 119 skiers.
Now Taufatofua has his eyes set on the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, and is learning yet another new sport.
“My goal is to be the first person to make [the Olympics in] three new sports, so I’m trying for sprint kayaking as my next sport,” he said on “Today.”
Taufatofua says he’s been training for about three months, and will learn next February if he has made the team.
When asked if he’ll be oiling up for the next Olympics, Taufatofua said, “I hope so, it makes you quicker, I’ll do what it takes.”
Taufatofua says part of the reason he wants to go back to the Olympics is to “bring awareness to climate change.”
In another interview with the BBC, Taufatofua said the effects of global warming are more apparent on Tonga.
“When I was a child we’d have a major storm maybe once every six to 10 years, now we have one or two a year,” he said.
Right now, Taufatofua is training on a recreational kayak and is hoping to find a sponsor to help him buy him the kind of professional kayak he’ll need for competition.
“A new kayak could be anything up to $10,000, but I’m also looking for a partner or two that wants to be part of this journey and believes in what we’re doing,” he told the BBC.