Shirtless Tongan flagbearer grabs Olympic attention again

Frederick Owens
February 10, 2018

But that didn't stop the 34-year-old Olympian - Tonga's only athlete in these Olympics, competing as a cross-country skier - from appearing again in his signature look as the biggest Winter Games to date got underway.

We - being regular humans without sculpted abdominal muscles that deserve to be viewed through a sheen of oil or the elite athletic gifts that can earn us national recognition in multiple sports - are going to keep applauding and ogling him.

Yong-nam's diplomatic roles were especially convenient for the current leader's late father and predecessor Kim Jong-il, who was known for a propensity to avoid contact with foreign guests, according to analysts. He'd never seen snow until 2016, and the first time he ever put on skis was January 2017. (Ever.) "After Rio, I chose to find the hardest sport possible, because I needed a new challenge, and the hardest sport possible was cross-country skiing", he told the Olympic Channel last month, according to Time. I want a new challenge. I would also tie pieces of wood to my feet and run on the sand to try and find balance.

"It's the hardest thing I've ever done", he said. I get in the ring and I kick people and people kick me back. "Roller skiing, you can't stop, the only way to stop is to fall and I learnt that the hard way many, many a time".

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While he's determined, the Tongan athlete does not have the highest hopes when it comes to final standings.

"I don't know if it's possible to beat that event, it was a Summer Games", he laughs.

Pita Taufatofua, Tonga's sole participant in the games after qualifying in cross country skiing, had earlier declared he would not be repeating his topless deeds in Rio.

He will become just the second Tongan to compete in the Winter Olympics, following in the footsteps of for luge competitor Bruno Banani.

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