The famous ‘Topless Tongan’ Pita Taufatofua is aiming to make history to become the first athlete to compete across three events in three straight Olympics, but things got off to a choppy start.
Taufatofua made international fame after breaking tradition and walking out as Tonga’s flagbearer at the 2016 Rio Olympics topless and oiled up.
The humble taekwondo fighter became a celebrity overnight.
The charismatic Tongan then won hearts all around the world in 2018 when he once again braved the cold and walked out topless at the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics where he became the nation’s first ever Olympic skier.
Now the resolute athlete is attempting to make history and compete in a third straight Olympics in three seperate events.
But he is the first to admit he has plenty of work to do after his performance in his latest sprint kayak event.
Taufatofua attempted to line up next to his seven competitors in his first competition.
But things went pear-shaped when the Tongan was unable to line up straight and was forced to turn around.
He tried to adjust his position but was facing diagonally.
Unfortunately, the race began and his opponents sprinted away, leaving Taufatofua at the start still stabilising his kayak.
“Well that was slightly better than the first time I competed in Taekwondo or skiing. Would have liked to start facing the right way but that’s life,” he wrote on Twitter.
‘Close to my heart’: Taufatofua
There are only 12 places available in the K1 200m event for Tokyo 2020, but Taufatofua is confident.
“I want to be a sprint kayaker,” he told the BBC.
“It’s a sport that’s close to my heart as it’s what my ancestors did for thousands of years when they colonised the Polynesian islands.”
Taufatofua has used crowdfunding to help pay for his last two Olympic efforts.
But this time he hopes to raise the money seeking major backers to cover an estimated $220,000 for the next 15 months.
The money would also help him afford a new kayak, as the recreational kayak he is using is different from the size and weight used at the Olympics.