Tongan Olympian Pita Taufatofua has until this Sunday to qualify for the Winter Olympics in PyeongChang.
Taufatofua competed in the Rio Olympics in taekwondo. He was quickly defeated, but gained immense publicity for himself and Tonga by leading his fellow competitors into the arena covered in coconut oil.
Now he has decided to switch sporting careers and has been battling uphill to make his dream of competing in South Korea a reality.
He started skiing a year ago on roller skis, managed to raise only $10,000 to fund his attempt and has been competing on borrowed skis.
His competition in Armenia was a washout because he was comping on skis designed for hard snow on a day when the course was covered in soft snow.
Undaunted, he prepared to compete in another race in Croatia, but missed the flight after driving through five countries to board a flight in Istanbul.
A philosophical Taufatofua posted a message on his Facebook page:
“So here I am sitting at Istanbul airport missing the race that could have possibly gotten me to the Olympics.
“It was always going to be a long shot but I had to give it a shot and I did. Soo many times in life we will get disappointed.
“When this happens I have two options. I can sit on that chair crying about what could have been and how unfair life is…. or I can go and find some good quality chocolate, pull out my notepad and start planning “what’s next”— I always did like chocolate.”
Whether he will be able to find another qualifying race before Sunday, or whether he even has the funds to get to it, is an open question.
However, his determination does not appear to be in question.
As he told the Wall Street Journal: “I don’t fear failure. I fear not trying.”
Other Tongan skiers to aim for the winter Olympics have included Fuahea Semi, also known as Bruno Banani, who represented the Royal Tonga Ski Federation at the Winter Olympics in Sochi in 2014.
Tongan skier Kasete Skeen, whose father’s family are from Vava’u and Tongatapu, quit his job in London last year and moved to Austria last year to prepare for his attempt at qualifying for PyeongChang.
Skeen is one of several overseas-based Tongans, including Makeleta Piukala, Reinhard Langer and Dyan Wackerbauer, who have had an eye on winter competitions, with the support of the Royal Tonga Ski Federation.
The main points
- Tongan Olympian Pita Taufatofua has until this Sunday to qualify for the Winter Olympics in PyeongChang.
- He had almost qualified, but his last two attempts had ended in failure.
- It is not certain if the self-funded athlete, who has been competing on borrowed skis, will be able to find another race in the four days left to him.
- Taufatofua competed in the Rio Olympics in taekwondo. He was quickly defeated, but gained immense publicity for himself and Tonga by leading his fellow competitors into the arena covered in coconut oil.
For more information
Shirtless Tongan flag-bearer might not qualify for the Winter Olympics after all
The shirtless Tongan flag-bearer who became a sensation at the Rio Olympics nearly completed an incredible transition to cross-country skiing and the Winter Olympics
Tongan skier sets sights on 2018 Winter Olympics
Meet the man who quit his job to become Tonga’s first Winter Olympic ski racer http://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/ski/articles/meet-the-tongan-skier-want-to-compete-at-the-winter-olympics/