Tongan taekwondo athlete Pita Taufatofua, who caused a stir two weeks ago when he appeared during the Rio 2016 Opening Ceremonies shirtless and glistening with oil, made a repeat performance at last night’s closing ceremonies.
Taufatofua did not win a medal, but he became more famous than many who did, and was perhaps the most popular ambassador for Tonga that the nation has ever had.
“I was here because it took me 20 years to get here,” he said. “People thought I walked out with a shiny body and was an overnight success. F— that. … It was 20 years of work to walk out on that stage and be chosen as the flag bearer.”
The crowd at Carioca Arena 3 chanted “Tonga! Tonga!” Saturday, at a volume that Taufatofua never imagined hearing before he got to Brazil. That was because of the coconut oil. He wroteon his Facebook page that the oil “is an integral part of indigenous Oceanian body adornment…an expression of ancestral ties.” It doesn’t really matter if the attention was part of a master plan or happy accident.
“How the hell does the crowd know what Tonga is?” Taufatofua said. “Well, obviously, we did something right. To me, that’s what the Olympics is about. It’s about bringing people who don’t know each other and have different cultural and religious beliefs or views together as one. We’re all human beings.”
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Felt soo privileged to get out on those mats and represent Tonga! There are no excuses, I started slow, got caught and lost to a legend of Taekwondo, a great opponent in Iran. Sometimes you win, sometimes you learn! It took me 20 years to get here, if it takes another 20 we will bring that Gold home! Thank you for the love, prayers and support without you all we would not be here! Malo Aupito, ofa atu Ps- We aren't finished yet 😉 #closingCeremony #tongaToTheWorld #brazil #tonga