Oily, shirtless hunk’s stunning comeback
IN SAD news for straight females and gay men everywhere, Pita Taufatofua will be keeping his shirt on if he returns to the Olympics.
You won't remember the taekwondo competitor - the first ever Tongan to qualify for the event at an Olympics - for winning any medals at the Rio Games in 2016, but chances are you'll recognise his impressive rig from the opening ceremony where he captured the world's attention as his country's flag-bearer.
His bronzed, oiled up body sent social media into a frenzy and he became an instant icon of the Olympics.
Taufatofua stunned the world in 2016 by announcing he was pursuing a career change, taking up cross country skiing in an effort to compete in the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
Now, with the start of the Winter Olympics just over a month away, he's closer to achieving his dream than anyone could possibly have imagined.
The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) has joined Taufatofua on his journey to becoming a Winter Olympian and published a piece on Friday (AEDT) about how he's progressing.
Despite many thinking his cross-code transition was wishful thinking, the WSJ reveals he is now just one race away from qualifying for February's competition. From tropical Tonga to freezing Pyeongchang, it's a tale not that far removed from the classic 1993 film Cool Runnings about the Jamaican bobsleigh team.
The interesting piece says Taufatofua - who lives in Brisbane - still can't afford his own skis and has even been forced to train without snow because - obviously - there isn't any in the Queensland capital.
He has trained in the Austrian mountains with his German coach but when he's back Down Under he uses roller-skis on land.
"There was no snow back home in Brisbane, Australia, and he couldn't regularly drive 30 hours and sleep in his car to hit the nearest ski mountains," the piece says. "His training consisted of beach workouts and roller-skiing for several hours a day in the sunshine and without a shirt."
Points collected in roller-skiing events count towards an athlete's bid to compete in cross country skiing, with competitors required to meet five finishes that satisfy "a formula designed to keep rookies like him out of the Olympics".
Per the WSJ, Taufatofua beat that mark four times in one week of roller-skiing in Colombia last year. But his fifth and final effort needs to come on snow and it needs to come quickly - he only has until January 21 to beat the mark.
Taufatofua will reportedly compete in Poland this weekend where his Winter Olympic dream could be won or lost.
"I don't fear failure," he told the WSJ. "I fear not trying."
Taufatofua's form on the powder isn't anything to write home about. He finished 153rd out of 156 competitors at a sprint event at the world championships last year in Finland, which is hardly surprising considering where he comes from.
"I'm from the sand and the coconuts," Taufatofua told the WSJ. "What is this white stuff over here?"
Regardless of whether Taufatofua qualifies or not, the fact he's got as close as he has already makes his story remarkable - and we don't think anyone will begrudge him trading coconut oil for puffy jackets if he achieves his goal.