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Tokyo Olympics: Tonga shirtless flag bearer has competition

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Tonga’s Pita Taufatofua first went viral with his appearance at the 2016 Opening Ceremony. But this year, he wasn’t the only shirtless athlete at the ceremony.

WASHINGTON — At the Olympics, Tonga might be best known recently for its shirtless, oiled-up flag bearer and this year he had a bit of competition. 

Pita Taufatofua, who went viral during the 2016 Rio Olympics Opening Ceremony and during the freezing cold 2018 Winter Olympics, was at the postponed Tokyo Olympics Opening Ceremony Friday once again, shirtless and glistening with oil.

He caught the attention of the world as he led his nation in the athletes’ parade during the past Opening Ceremonies, and this year was no different.

Taufatofua competed in the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympics in the Cross Country Skiing 15 kilometers and freestyle. During the Rio Olympics in 2016, he tied for 11th in heavyweight Taekwondo.

He’s also used his fame for good. Taufatofua is a UNICEF ambassador, works with homeless shelters and is busy raising money for sporting equipment for nations in need.

He returns to this year’s Summer Olympics in Taekwondo. According to USA Today, he was training to compete in the sprint kayaking event since 2019, but he missed qualifying.

New this year was a co-flagbearer, Malia Paseka, walking alongside Taufatofua.

But this time around, Taufatofua wasn’t the only shirtless flag bearer. 

Vanuatu’s flag bearer, rower Rillio Rii, also carried his nation’s flag while shirtless and oiled up. 

Social media reacted to Taufatofua with cheers. “***BREAKING*** TONGA HAS WON THE OLYMPICS. We can all go home now,” one person tweeted.

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“Olympics Opening Ceremony won’t be complete without Tonga and its unique flag bearer!” another said.

“And just like that billions of women around the world took a big breath in and decided Tonga was their second team this Olympic Games…” someone else tweeted with a photo of Taufatofua.

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