Pita Taufatofua joined the longer-than-you-might-think list of athletes to compete at the Winter and Summer Olympic Games when he raced in the 15 kilometer freestyle today. Taufatofua, of course, is best known as the “Shirtless Tongan.”
Taufatofua’s story was already pretty dope. He competed in taekwondo in the 2016 Summer games, and switched to cross-country skiing for the 2018 Winter games. Taufatofua, who lives in Brisbane, Australia, went into $30,000 worth of debt trying to switch sports, and frequently had to train on roller skis instead of on the snow. He had never skied before last year.
But he qualified for the Olympics! Pretty neat, except for the debt. Despite the sub-freezing temperature, he also walked shirtless during these opening ceremonies. And now he finished 114th in the men’s 15 kilometer freestyle ski in a time of 56:41.1. He beat four people!
Two of those four didn’t finish the race. But he did finish ahead of Colombia’s Sebastian Uprimny and Mexico’s German Madrazo. (The International Ski Federation recently changed the rules to allow points gained in roller-skiing events to count for Olympic qualification.)
“I didn’t fall,” Taufatofua told reporters afterward. “I was coming into the last lap thinking, ‘Please God, not in front of everyone, don’t give me my first fall. Let me finishing strong.’ I’d rather be finishing toward the end of the pack with all my friends than in the middle by myself. We fought together. We finished together.”
And, yes, Taufatofua competed with a shirt on. “I don’t know about the most popular man but I’m the coldest man,” Taufatofua said. “I think it’s because I’ve got clothes on, but I don’t know.”
Taufatofua isn’t done. He says he wants to compete in “something to do with water” in the 2020 Olympics. Yes, that’s right: He’ll be picking up a sport he can do shirtless.