Shirtless flag-bearer from 2016 Olympics qualifies for 2018 Games

Pita Taufatofua

Qualification points earned in roller-ski races can be applied for cross-country skiing and Taufatofua almost qualified on that basis alone.

He qualified on Saturday (January 21) for the Winter Olympics 2018 in Pyeongchang, which runs from February 9-25. "This was the last day of the qualification process".

Pita Taufatofua, who represented Tonga in taekwondo at the 2016 Rio Olympics, has switched sports to compete in South Korea next month.

The flag-bearer from Tonga who walked shirtless in the opening ceremony of the 2016 Olympics will need to pack some warm shirts for the South Korean games. But after crashing out in the first round, the athlete announced he was on the lookout for a new challenge.

The fighter chose to make the switch to cross-country skiing following his disappointing first-round exit in Brazil. But reaching his goal was far from easy.

Pita Taufatofua of Tonga walks along the sand with his country's flag
Shirtless flag-bearer from 2016 Olympics qualifies for 2018 Games

"And I thought there is one race left and it's at the end of the world".

Taufatofua drove more than two hours through a blizzard in the Arctic Circle to get to the final race attempt in Isafjordur in Iceland having earlier missed a flight in Istanbul in an attempt to qualify via an event in Croatia. We're in Iceland, and I thought, 'I have to give it all.

"We sacrificed everything to be here", Taufatofua told the Olympic Channel.

"I've probably had maybe 10 weeks all up on snow because there is no snow where I'm from in Tonga so we had to use roller skis and they are the worst things ever made", he said.

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