Tongan Skiier Pita Taufatofua Makes Olympic Debut

His performance wasn't great, but then again he only recently learned to ski.

Pita Taufatofua, best known as Tonga’s shirtless Olympic flag bearer, hit the slopes Friday for the first time in the Pyeongchang Games. 

He finished in 114th place in the 15km cross-country skiing event, taking 56:41.1 to complete the course. Two skiers finished behind him, two didn’t finish and one was disqualified. 

Luckily, the disappointment will likely not sting too badly given that he had set a pretty low bar for himself to begin with.

“The first step, finish before they turn the lights off; that’s number one,” the 34-year-old joked Wednesday during a press conference. “Don’t ski into a tree, that’s number two.”

He had also only experienced snow for a total of 12 weeks throughout his entire life before this year’s Games, he added. He said he hoped his performance would inspire other young people from his home country.

“People from the Pacific, these kids who are watching now, they’ll have access to something that they never knew existed before,” he said. “And to me, that’s why I’m here.”

Taufatofua competed in the taekwondo event at the Rio 2016 Summer Olympics and suggested on Thursday that he might try yet another sport for future Games.

“Maybe water’s the next thing,” he said. “Something in the water. Stay tuned.”