No medal, But Tongan athlete Taufatofua sees brighter prospects after Olympic Games

    Tonga’s Olympic flag bearer, 32-year-old Pita Taufatofua may not have won a medal at the Rio Olympics, but he is now fielding offers from modelling agencies, magazines, talk shows, commercials, and media interviews.

    Next week he is flying to Los Angeles to talk to managers and agents.

    Taufatofua said he spent all his time in Rio doing interviews after his spectacular appearance in the Olympic opening ceremony, but that he sued the opportunity to promote Tonga.

    “Each of those interviews was me getting Tonga out to the world,” he told  Matangi Tonga.

    Taufatofua, who represented the kingdom in Taekwondo at the Rio Games, is meeting with officials and visiting friends and family on Tongatapu as well as Ha’apai.

    A parade is being planned for Saturday to mark the return of the Tongan Olympic team.

    As Kaniva News reported last month, Taufatofua went down 16-1 to Iranian medal favourite Sajjad Mardani , but still managed to catch the attention of the world’s press because of his attitude.

    In an interview with leading American sporting magazine Sports Illustrated, he made it clear he thought winning or losing was less important than making people aware of Tonga.

    “To me, that’s what the Olympics is about, Taufatofua said.

    “It’s about bringing people who don’t know each other and have different cultural and religious beliefs or views together as one. We’re all human beings.”

    “For me the important thing is getting Tonga out to the world.”

    In the wake of Taufatofua’s well-oiled appearance in the opening ceremony, Britain’s Independent newspaper reported that the Tongan government was hoping for a tourism boom.

    The paper quoted Tourism Tonga spokeswoman Seini Taumoepeau as saying there had been increased online interest in the kingdom, with thousands of people looking at a holiday website and visiting Tonga’s Facebook page.

    Thousands more had clicked on a website promoting Tongan holidays and hundreds more had visited the nation’s Facebook page.

    The main points

    • Tonga’s Olympic flag bearer, 32-year-old Pita Taufatofua may not have won a medal at the Rio Olympics, but he is now fielding offers from modelling agencies, magazines, talk shows, commercials, and media interviews.
    • As Kaniva News reported last month, although Taufatofua went down 16-1 to Iranian medal favourite Sajjad Mardani, but he managed to catch the attention of the world’s press.
    • “For me the important thing is getting Tonga out to the world,” he told American magazine Sports Illustrated.
    • Matangi Tonga has reported that a parade is being planned for Saturday to mark the return of the Tongan Olympic team.

    For more information         

    Taufatofua goes down 16-1 against medal favourite, but the fans kept chanting “Tonga!”

    Rio roundup: Tonga’s athletes give their best while Fonua kicks up an internet storm

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