Taufatofua steals the limelight again, but faces a tough challenge from top athletes

‘Oku mohu pole e hala ‘o Pita Taufatofua ‘a ia na’e kaualafai ki he ‘Olimipiki Momoko he mōmeniti faka’osi hili ia ha’ane feinga tu’o fitu. ‘E fe’auhi ‘a Taufatofua ‘i he fe’auhi lova sikī tātu’usi loto fonua 'o kumi hao hala ki he tepi ‘a ia ‘e foaki ‘a e ikuna ki he taha pe ko ē ‘oku ivi lahi taha he ‘aho ko ia. Neongo ‘a e ngaahi pole pea tukukehe ‘a e palōmesi ke nau teunga fakamatāpule, ne toe ta’ekofu pe ‘a Taufatofua ia ‘o ne toe tohoaki’i ai e tokanga ‘a e ngaahi ongongo fakavaha’apule’anga hangē koi a ne hoko ‘i he ‘Olimipiki Māfana ‘i Rio.

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Pita Taufatofua. Photo/File

Tongan athlete Pita Taufatofua, who qualified for the Winter Olympics at the last minute after several failed attempts, is facing a tough challenge in Pyeongchang.

Taufatofua will be competing in the cross country where victory, according to one world champion, goes to whoever is strongest on the day.

Despite the challenges and despite apparently promising to dress sensibly, Taufatofua once again stole the attention of the world’s press by striding into the Winter Olympics opening ceremony in the same uniform he wore at the summer Games in Rio.

Temperatures were -1C and it is open to question whether the coconut oil with which he slathered his upper body would have kept him warm.

Taufatofua is the only Tongan athlete competing in the south Korean Games.

He will represent Tonga in cross-country skiing, which begins tomorrow with a skiathlon.

Having previously competed in taekwondo in the Rio Games, he managed to qualify for the Winter Olympics by the skin of his teeth.

He has only been training for the sport for about a year and has been attempting to qualify on borrowed skis. In Australia he had practiced on grass, rather than snow.

After seven failed attempts in Europe, which saw him scrambling from country in search of a qualifying event, he finally managed to win a place at the Olympics in Japan on January 20.

He is only the second Tongan to compete in the Winter Olympics. Bruno Banani completed in the luge at Sochi.

Taufatofua is the first person to compete for Tonga at both the summer and winter Games.

Cross country

Canadian champion cross country skier Alex Harvey has described the sport as “gruelling,” that makes great demands on a competitor’s athletic ability.

Harvey, who has been training since he was 16,  said the keys to winning were athletic ability and the right equipment.

“It comes down to who is strongest on the day, mainly,” he said.

“There’s no substitute for training, and working hard.

“Your skis are also absolutely vital. You can blow a race because of bad equipment.”

The men’s cross country events at PyeongChang 2018 consists of the men’s skiathlon (February 11), individual sprint classic (February 13), 15km freestyle (February 16), 4 x 10km relay (February 18), team sprint freestyle (February 21) and the 50km mass start classic.

The main points

  • Tongan athlete Pita Taufatofua, who qualified for the Winter Olympics at the last minute after seven failed attempts, is facing a tough challenge in PyeongChang.
  • Taufatofua will be competing in the cross country where victory, according to one world champion, goes to whoever is strongest on the day.
  • Despite the challenges and despite apparently promising to dress sensibly, Taufatofua once again stole the attention of the world’s press by striding into the Winter Olympics opening ceremony in the same uniform he wore at the summer Games in Rio.

For more information 

Winter Olympics 2018: Pita Taufatofua appears topless at opening ceremony as Tonga’s only athlete in Pyeongchang

Alex Harvey’s guide to cross-country skiing at PyeongChang 2018

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