EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) — He made worldwide headlines when he walked into the opening ceremony in Rio shirtless. Now, he is aiming to make Olympic history in Tokyo.
Matt Barnes caught up with the athlete from Tonga who is using the next year to train and inspire.
“I learned very quickly that you can’t stay in the place of pain and disappointment. You have to keep pushing forward. Keep finding a way to stay positive,” said Pita Taufatofua, two-time Olympian.
The word ‘quit’ is not in Pita Taufatofua’s vocabulary. After 15 years of training, he qualified for his first olympic games in 2016 in Taekwondo, famously walking into the opening ceremony in Rio oiled up and shirtless. Two years later, he did the same in Pyeongchang, as the man from the island nation of Tonga qualified in cross-country skiing.
“To me, it’s always about pushing. Pushing that barrier to see just how far we can go with the human being,” said Taufatofua.
And now, a new, goal. To compete in Tokyo in Sprint Kayaking, a sport he picked up less than a year ago.
“You know, I’d like to say I was drunk when I made this decision but I don’t drink.”
After a few months of training, his first competition didn’t go as planned, but Pita’s positivity remains.
“Any situation is how you perceive it. So there’s negatives and positives. So I’m excited because now I get a year to get better on a kayak.”
If Pita can qualify next year, he will become the first athlete ever to compete in 3 different sports in 3 consecutive Olympics. However, to Pita, it is not about the medals.
“The message is to be an Olympian is great. To inspire or to share a message so that other people can overcome their hurdles in life, to me that’s worth more than any medal. The medal is a personal thing. The message is for everyone else.”