Pita Taufatofua, Tonga flag bearer, qualifies for Tokyo Olympics
Pita Taufatofua, the Tongan flag bearer who went viral for his shirtless, oiled-up Opening Ceremony entrances in Rio and PyeongChang, said he has qualified for a third straight Olympics.
Taufatofua won an Oceania continental Olympic taekwondo qualifier. He benefited from there being just one other entrant in his weight division for the one available Olympic spot.
“We’re going to Tokyo,” Taufatofua said in a text message, confirming the final score was 20-4 against Papua New Guinea’s Steven Tommy. World Taekwondo Oceania confirmed Taufatofua won. A document from a martial arts results website also listed Taufatofua having won.
Taufatofua clinched a quota spot not for himself, but for Tonga in Tokyo. Taufatofua, competing a month after fracturing a rib, said before the qualifier that he would receive Tonga’s Olympic spot if he won. A Tonga Olympic official responded late Friday to a question asking if Taufatofua gets the quota spot by saying in an email, “Now we have two, one [female qualifier] and Pita.”
The largest Oceania nations, Australia and New Zealand, chose to enter taekwondo fighters in divisions other than Taufatofua’s 80kg+. A nation could enter a maximum of two fighters per gender in the tournament, which had four divisions per gender total.
Taufatofua can still reach his goal of also qualifying for Tokyo in sprint kayak, too. His best opportunity may be via tripartite commission invitation, which goes to small nations.
In his two previous Olympics, Taufatofua lost in the Rio Olympic taekwondo tournament in the first round by mercy rule. In PyeongChang, he finished 114th out of 116 in a 15km cross-country skiing race, nearly 23 minutes behind the winner.
If he also makes it in kayak, Taufatofua will be the first athlete to compete in a different sport in three straight Olympics (Summer and Winter) since the Winter Games began in 1924, according to the OlyMADMen.
Taufatofua would also be the first athlete in multiple sports at one Summer Games since 1992, when a pair competed in modern pentathlon and fencing (though fencing is also one of the five disciplines in modern pentathlon).
Furthermore, he would be the first to compete in two distinctly different sports at one Summer Games since Aristidis Roubanis threw the javelin and played for the Greek basketball team in Helsinki in 1952.
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