Tonga isn’t usually a star nation of the Olympics, but on Friday night at the Rio 2016 opening ceremony, they stole the show thanks to taekwondo fighter Pita Nikolas Taufatofua.
Taufatofua was Tonga’s flagbearer during the parade of nation, and he marched out shirtless and drenched in oil, wearing only a Tongan mat, instantly causing a stir in the sports world.
This is Taufatofua’s first Olympics and he’s Tonga’s first taekwondo Olympian.
According to Wall Street Journal, Taufatofua started a Generosity page to crowdsource money to “fund a training camp with world-class fighters, bring his technical coach to that training camp, hire a strength and conditioning coach, buy the electronic system that will be used at the Olympics and cover his costs of travel.” His goal was $100,000, according to WSJ. He made only $6,262.
That didn’t stop Taufatofua, though. According to WSJ, in an interview with a Tongan website, Taufatofua revealed he’s had multiple injuries in his career and was wheelchair-bound for three months.
As WSJ also notes, Taufatofua also gave a preview of his grand Olympics entrance, writing on his Facebook page, “Olympic opening Ceremony tonight! Pumped! We have a little surprise.. Don’t blink or you’ll miss it.”
His entrance quickly made him a star, gaining over 1,000 followers on Instagram within an hour, according to WSJ.
After Friday night, the taekwondo events gained a lot more followers.
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