The Tokyo Olympics (lastly) opened Friday, and the opening ceremony had greater than we might’ve requested for. As an alternative of simply the viral Tonga flag bearer and his oiled chest, a second flag bearer determined to present Pita Taufatofua a run for his cash.
Taufatofua grew to become an web sensation on the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, when he made his Olympic debut in taekwondo and represented his island nation by carrying its flag on the opening ceremony. He was again at it once more two years later, when he participated in cross nation snowboarding on the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics.
And Friday, as he readied to go at it in taekwondo once more, Taufatofua was again, shirtless, oiled and representing his nation in conventional Tongan costume.
However in contrast to in earlier years, he had competitors — Rillio Rii of Vanuatu, a rower and one in all three athletes from the nation within the South Pacific, additionally confirmed up with out the highest half of his outfit.
The 37-year-old Taufatofua by no means has medaled in his Olympic pursuits, however he’s leaned into changing into a global sensation. He’s a UNICEF ambassador and a motivational speaker.
“The Olympics, to me, isn’t even in regards to the athletes,” he just lately instructed Ken Belson of The New York Occasions. “I feel we’re only a illustration of each single particular person on the planet making an attempt to beat one thing.”
His first taekwondo match is Monday at 10:45 p.m. ET in opposition to Vladislav Larin, who’s competing for the Russian Olympic Committee since his native Russia continues to be banned for its doping scandal.
And even when it doesn’t go as deliberate, which may not be the final we see of Taufatofua, as he hasn’t ruled out a future Olympic look. On the very least, he is aware of he has a worthy opponent on the flag-bearing entrance.