Opening Ceremony three-peat for shirtless Pita Taufatofua

Tokyo 2020, in 2021, marks the third occasion where the Tongan has carried his country’s flag shirtless, oiled up and in traditional dress.

Would Pita Taufatofua do it a third time?

The Tongan certainly did. During the Parade of Nations the flag bearer came out shirtless and in traditional dress.

What Taufatofua would do was the question on everyone’s lips just as Tonga emerged in the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Stadium in as part of the Opening ceremony proceedings.

The 37-year-old had dropped hints on his social media hours before the Opening ceremonies as to what he would be wearing.

He shared photos and relayed their personal significance, before then ominously telling his social media followers: “Don’t blink.”

Tokyo 2020 marks three shirtless outings from three for the Tongan who became a viral sensation when in Rio 2016, he appeared shirtless, oiled up and donning his tapa cloth.

As he proudly carried his nation’s flag through the Maracana stadium, the internet exploded in awe of the man whose smile, and coconut-oiled body, glistened under the lights.

Shirtless in the cold of PyeongChang 2018

After he announced he would be targeting the 15km freestyle cross country skiing event at the winter Games in PyeongChang 2018, the world wondered: would he dare the cold and do it again?

He absolutely did.

As Tonga’s sole representative he was once again the flag bearer and once more topless.

Pita Taufatofua
Picture by 2018 Getty Images

Tonga's taekwondo athlete topless again at Tokyo 2020

The Pacific Islander had intended to qualify for Tokyo in both taekwondo and in the kayak sprint.

Attempting kayaking was something of a personal decision.

Speaking to the Olympic Channel Podcast around his announcement, Taufatofua explained: “I chose kayak because it’s something close to my heart. It’s something that Polynesians have done a thousand years, travelling from island to island.”

However, two years of training resulted in disappointment after early failures, a broken rib and COVID travel restrictions meant Taufatofua did not qualify. Taekwondo is to be the sport he competes in at the Games.

Had the Tongan made it in kayaking, he would have been the first person to qualify for three different Olympics in three different sports.

It seems that Taufatofua may well just have to settle for two.

Although, as we know, the Pacific Islander is not a man that ever gives up. He has brought his paddle with him to Japan’s capital.

Behind Taufatofua statement entrances there is a much deeper meaning to his cause. They are not only a nod to his small island nation and the centuries of history behind it, but also a platform to invite younger generations to push themselves and reach the same heights he has.

So, we know a paddle travelled made it with him to Tokyo, the question is: did any shirts?


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