Shirtless Tongan Pita Taufatofua finishes ahead of 4 other racers and didn't crash into a tree in his Winter Olympics debut

Matthias Hangst/Getty Images
  • Pita Taufatofua finished 114th in the men’s 15km cross-country event, with a final time of 56:41.1.
  • Known as the “Shirtless Tongan,” Taufatofua had learned to ski on snow just three months prior to the Winter Olympics, spending most of his training time on roller skis.
  • Taufatofua did not crash into a tree during the event, something he stated as a goal prior to the games.
  • Taufatofua already has his sites set on another Olympics appearance in 2020, hoping to compete in “something to do with water.”

Pita Taufatofua accomplished his goal of competing in both the Summer and Winter Olympics on Friday, finishing the men’s 15km cross-country event in 56 minutes and 41 seconds.

Better known as the “Shirtless Tongan,” Taufatofua first made waves at the 2016 Summer Games in Rio, when his shirtless appearance at the opening ceremony made the collective internet swoon. Since Rio, Taufatofua made it his goal to make it back to the Olympics, this time with his eye on the Winter Games.

He took up cross-country skiing, training on roller skis and eventually qualifying for Pyeongchang 2018 despite only having to learn to ski in snow in just three months.

While it was far from a gold medal performance – Taufatofua finished 114th in an event with 118 people – he didn’t come in last place either, which is something in an event featuring world class athletes.

Taufatofua also did not crash into a tree during the event. Prior to the games, he had stated that his two goals were to “finish before they turn the lights off,” and “don’t ski into a tree.”

Taufatofua seemed pleased with his performance.

“I didn’t fall,” Taufatofua said, speaking to reporters after his race. “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.'”

When he crossed the finish line, he was greeted by some of the other late finishers of the race. Together, they waited together for the final racer, German Madrazo, to cross the finish and carried him heroically around the arena.

Taufatofua seemed pleased with the race’s ending, saying “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.”

Taufatofua also claims he already has his sights on another appearance at the Olympics, saying he’d like to compete in “something to do with water,” when the Summer Games come back around, so don’t be surprised if you see him again – smiling and shirtless – at the opening ceremony of Tokyo 2020.

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