Tongan Flag Bearer Sets Himself Inspirationally Low Bar For Olympic Success

Participating in the Winter Olympics is what counts for Tonga’s flag bearer Pita Taufatofua.

The 34-year-old cross-country skier set himself an amusingly low bar for success during a press conference in Pyeongchang, South Korea, on Wednesday.

“The first step, finish before they turn the lights off; that’s number one,” the underdog athlete joked in a video that the Agence France-Presse shared online, above.

“Don’t ski into a tree, that’s number two,” added Taufatofua, who captured the world’s attention during Friday’s opening ceremony, where he wore a traditional Tongan ta’ovala waist mat as he marched with his country’s flag. He did the same at the Rio 2016 Summer Olympic games, where he competed in the taekwondo event and was knocked out in his first bout.

Taufatofua noted how he’d only had “12 weeks on snow in my whole life” and almost certainly “won’t medal,” before giving an inspirational explanation about why he’d decided to represent his country at the games:

“In four years, someone from Tonga might (medal). In eight years, someone from the Pacific might, but more importantly people from the Pacific, these kids who are watching now, they’ll have access to something that they never knew existed before. And to me, that’s why I’m here.”

Taufatofua articulated a similar sentiment earlier this week during an interview on NBC:

“Its not about winning medals for me,” he said. “It’s about inspiring people to push themselves out of their comfort zone, to not fear failure, to fail and then laugh at it and then try again.”

Taufatofua doesn’t make his Winter Olympic debut in the men’s 15km free event until Friday, but his participation at the games is already having a major impact back in his South Pacific homeland, which Cyclone Gita battered earlier this week.

On Tuesday, he revealed that International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach had “offered to help rebuild sporting facilities” in the country.

Taufatofua wrote on Facebook how it was “a dream” to “build an Olympic facility for the children of Tonga to one day have the privilege of being an Olympian and waving that flag.”

“After the cyclone we have nothing but now we have some hope,” he added.