Sports

Famous Tongan flag bearer, Pita Taufatofua, Will not participate in the Olympics

Pita Taufatofua, a Tongan athlete perhaps best known as a topless and flag-bearer, will not be participating in the 2022 Winter Olympics – to the disappointment of loyal viewers of the ceremony. inaugural, who had hoped for his radiant return.

Three-time athlete who competed in taekwondo and cross-country skiing, rather than focusing on disaster response a powerful tsunami attacked his home island nation after a nearby volcano erupted with enormous force. By January, he was still ineligible to compete and decided not to attempt to qualify after the disaster.

“Even with the qualifications criteria, I wouldn’t be able to go to Beijing,” he said, because in Tonga, “there are too many aspirants I can’t gather there.”

“I’ll definitely miss it,” Taufatofua said, but “The Olympics stands for more than just sport, and so I feel there’s some Olympic effort that we’re doing now.”

Parts of Tonga, an island nation in the Pacific with a population of about 100,000, were just 40 miles from where the blast occurred. The country was covered with ashes, and many residents lost both communication and electricity. It was days before Taufatofua heard from his father and confirmed that he had been found safe.

Taufatofua immediately start a GoFundMe page for relief efforts. “In the coming days and weeks we will need your help,” he wrote on the site while at training camp in Australia. “The initial priority for funds will go to those most in need, infrastructure and damage to schools, hospitals, etc.” Page has raised almost AU$800,000, or about $571,000.

Taufatofua, 38, has gone down in history as the rare athlete to compete in both the Summer and Winter Olympics. Taufatofua competed for the first time at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro as the first Tongan to qualify in taekwondo.

But he made headlines after marching in the opening ceremony shirtless and in traditional Tongan attire, something he repeated in the freezing temperatures at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea. China and in warmer weather than in Tokyo last year.

Taufatofua says he is grateful to be able to use his background as an Olympic athlete to raise awareness of relief efforts in Tonga. “Knowing that people are trusting me to do my best to help the people of Tonga, it makes me very humble,” he said.

He’s focused on getting “immediate aid for everyone” and then, “to some extent rebuilding and rebuilding stronger.” Then his energy goes back to his Olympic pursuits, including “finding gold in Paris,” he said.

He added, “It’s not the end; It’s the halftime break. ”

https://www.nytimes.com/2022/02/03/sports/olympics/tongan-flag-bearer.html Famous Tongan flag bearer, Pita Taufatofua, Will not participate in the Olympics

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