The incredible story of Pita Taufatofua, Tonga’s shirtless Olympic flag bearer

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Years of pain and crushing disappointment have not dissuaded the Instagram sensation from becoming an Olympian in two sports – and he’s about to announce a third

When Pita Taufatofua began the walk towards the stadium at the 2016 Rio Olympics opening ceremony, he was an unknown, unrated athlete from an obscure Pacific island. He would walk back out a global celebrity. Had it not been for a vat of coconut oil and his flair for flag bearing, he could have passed through the Olympic Games unnoticed and unreported.

As it was he went rogue, flagrantly disobeying officials who said “please just wear the suit”, hid a ta’ovala (Tongan mat which is wrapped around the waist) in his backback, nipped out the back and put it on just before the show got started, covered himself in oil, and by the time he had passed the thousands of people lining the streets on the way to the stadium he was going viral. When he stepped into the lights of the stadium waving his flag, articles were already being written about the distractingly shiny Tongan flag bearer and Twitter was melting down. “The internet came to a grinding halt,” reported Entertainment Tonight.

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Written by Susan Chenery
This news first appeared on https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2019/jan/02/the-incredible-story-of-pita-taufatofua-tongas-shirtless-olympic-flag-bearer under the title “

The incredible story of Pita Taufatofua, Tonga’s shirtless Olympic flag bearer

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