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Tonga flag bearer Pita Taufatofua misses qualification for Paris Olympics

Pita Taufatofua, who gained fame as Tonga’s shirtless flag bearer at three consecutive Olympics, did not qualify for the Paris Games this summer.

“This time my team and I fell short of competing at the Paris Olympics,” was posted on the 40-year-old Taufatofua’s social media on April 18. “I gave my absolute everything in both the Kayak and Taekwondo qualifiers but missed out on a qualification.

“Sorry Paris, the five gallons of extra virgin coconut oil I’ve been stock piling ‘may’ have to wait ;)”

Taufatofua competed at Oceania’s continental Olympic qualifiers in sprint kayak in February and in taekwondo earlier this month and did not come close to earning the lone Olympic spot available at each event.

Taufatofua is not eligible to earn a universality spot in the Paris Olympics in those events, according to the international governing body for each sport.

Tonga could be eligible for universality spots in other sports. Universality spots are given to nations that traditionally send small delegations to the Olympics.

Taufatofua qualified to compete in three consecutive Olympics in Rio in 2016 (taekwondo), PyeongChang in 2018 (cross-country skiing) and Tokyo in 2021 (taekwondo). He also tried to qualify for Tokyo in kayak, a sport he picked up in 2019, and was unsuccessful.

In January 2022, Taufatofua raised more than $500,000 for relief after an underwater volcanic eruption and tsunami struck his nation.