Pita Taufatofua of Tonga made his third Olympic appearance on Friday morning, and he made sure to arrive at the Opening Ceremony in Tokyo in style.
Taufatofua turned heads at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro and the 2018 Winter Games in Pyeongchang as he arrived as Tonga's flag bearer without a shirt. Friday marked Taufatofua's third turn as a flag bearer, and once again, he didn't disappoint.
Taufatofua is far more than Opening-Ceremony eye candy in Tokyo. He will compete for Tonga in taekwondo in Tokyo, looking to bring the nation their second Olympic medal in history. Taufatofua did not medal in taekwondo in Rio, and he was eliminated in the first round of the cross-country skiing event in Pyeongchang.
Tonga sported two flag bearers in the Opening Ceremony on Friday. Taufatofua was flanked by Malia Paseka, who will also compete in taekwondo in Tokyo. Paseka is Tonga's first female Olympian to compete in taekwondo, heading to Tokyo after winning gold in the women's 67kg division Oceania qualifying tournament in 2020.
"When the Chef de Mission announced that the one officially chosen to be the flag bearer was from taekwondo I was like 'oh yeah, it will be Pita,' but to my surprise they said it would be me," Paseka told Radio New Zealand. "I was really happy and honored, but I was also quite shocked."
"I'm really excited but a bit nervous too because this is really new for me. I've been to many competitions before, but this is my first Olympic Games and I'm just thankful really for the opportunity to be representing my country and that they trust me to be the flagbearer."
The first round of taekwondo competition will begin on Friday evening. Both South Korea and China took home a pair of gold medals in taekwondo in Rio, while the Americans took home one bronze medal.
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