Pita Taufatofua is attempting to qualify for Pyeongchang in cross-country skiing.
Pita Taufatofua, the guy you probably know for carrying Tonga’s flag at the Rio Olympics while shirtless and dripping with coconut oil, is hoping to be at the Winter Olympics this year.
Taufatofua competed in taekwondo in Rio (he was eliminated from the tournament in his first match) and announced four months later that he was giving cross-country skiiing a shot with the hope of qualifying for the Pyeongchang games. (The Wall Street Journal has chronicled his journey extensively.)
“My research process was really limited, because I’m an impulsive sort of guy,” he told the Journal. “That looks hard—I’m going to do that. That looks impossible—that’s where I need to be. Cross-country looks like there’s no way I can do it in a year—therefore I have to do it in a year.”
It was just as hard as it seemed. Taufatofua lives in Brisbane, Australia, where there is no snow. He could drive about 15 hours each way to a ski resort in the winter and sleep in his car, but that proved too arduous. He instead worked out on the beach and skated on roller-skates. As of last month, he was still learning the basics from a coach in Austria. And yet, he’s still on the brink of qualifying.
It was a longshot but, as the Journal explains, Taufatofua was able to take advantage of an Olympic loophole that didn’t even require him to ski on snow. Qualification points earned in roller-ski races can be applied for cross-country skiing and Taufatofua nearly qualified on that basis alone. But with no more roller-ski races on the schedule and the Olympics looming, Taufatofua needs to perform well in one last race on snow in order to qualify.
His most recent attempts came up short but he’s got one last shot this weekend in Poland.