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Tongan aims for Winter Games

Friday September 08, 2017 Written by Published in Regional

TONGA – Tongan athlete Pita Taufatofua says perseverance is the key in his ambitious bid to qualify for the Winter Olympics.

The 33-year-old made global headlines as Tonga’s shirtless flagbearer at the Rio Olympics last year.

He announced in December he was taking a break from taekwondo and putting on skis in an attempt to qualify for February’s Winter Games in Pyeongchang.

Taufatofua finished 153rd of 156 competitors in the men’s sprint qualification race at the World Championships in February.

The Oceania Championship taekwondo gold medallist said skiing was far removed from his island background.

“It’s cold and the weather is completely different and even the whole ski process, the athletic part of it as well you are using different muscles, you are using muscles you have never used before,” he said.

“We get up early. We get up early, we run. When you are not skiing you are roller skiing. It’s basically like roller blades and you are just powering along.

“The discipline is quite hard as you have that thing ‘it’s too cold’. With summer sports you can get up and you don’t have that barrier but with winter sports you look outside and you can’t see anything.

“It’s cold and its freezing and you have got to put on ten layers of different things.

“Then you have to go and breathe this air for like 20, 30, 40 kilometre sessions so that’s a big challenge”.

Taufatofua said that Pacific people have the potential to do well in different sports and encourages others not to let a lack of funds, or the environment, stop them from being the best in any sport.

“The next six months my goal is to try to qualify for the Olympics, we had like CNN and all those other media  telling us that, quite possibly, it is an impossible task and for us as Pacific Islanders.

“All that says to me is to try a little bit harder and you’ll make it,” he said.

- RNZI