Remember Pita Taufatofua, the 32-year-old, 176-pound Taekwondo fighter who rocked the Olympic opening ceremony? He wowed everyone in Maracanã stadium by carrying his nation’s flag while shirtless and oiled up in his island nation’s traditional garb… and he did it again last night during the closing ceremony (sans flag – video here). But while it was nice to see his hunky physique again, it made us wonder how he actually did in his event.
Well, to put it lightly, he got thoroughly owned in his first and only match against Iranian competitor Sajjad Mardani. Mardani beat him 16 to 1 in a point gap so wide that officials called off the match after two rounds rather than the customary three; there’s actually a rule that allows for that. Nonetheless, Reddit commenters say that when Taufatofua scored his only point, “Everyone, including his opponent cheered him and he was laughing like he just won a medal. It was a beautiful moment.” And Taufatofua respectfully shook his competitor’s hand after the match.
About his match, Taufatofua wrote on Instagram:
Felt soo privileged to get out on those mats and represent Tonga! There are no excuses, I started slow, got caught and lost to a legend of Taekwondo, a great opponent in Iran. Sometimes you win, sometimes you learn! It took me 20 years to get here, if it takes another 20 we will bring that Gold home! Thank you for the love, prayers and support without you all we would not be here! Malo Aupito, ofa atu Ps- We aren’t finished yet.
And if it makes you feel any better, his competitor is a world champion who ended up being defeated in the semifinals by a competitor who went on to lose his bronze medal match. What is the Olympics if not a chain of athletic heartbreaks?
Felt soo privileged to get out on those mats and represent Tonga! There are no excuses, I started slow, got caught and lost to a legend of Taekwondo, a great opponent in Iran. Sometimes you win, sometimes you learn! It took me 20 years to get here, if it takes another 20 we will bring that Gold home! Thank you for the love, prayers and support without you all we would not be here! Malo Aupito, ofa atu Ps- We aren’t finished yet 😉 #closingCeremony #tongaToTheWorld #brazil #tonga
Either way, Taufatofua is now more famous that most of the other medal winners. Entering the stadium for the closing ceremonies, Taufatofua reportedly heard the crowd chanting, “Tonga! Tonga!” and felt proud that he helped bring recognition to his little-known island nation, even if it was because of his oily man-pies. In fact, travel searches to Tonga and local coconut oil sales have both gone up as a direct result of his glistening entrance to the Games.
“How the hell does the crowd know what Tonga is? Well, obviously, we did something right. To me, that’s what the Olympics is about. 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.”
Taufatofua currently lives in Brisbane, Australia, where he works as a counselor for homeless youth. Jeez, can this guy get anymore wonderful? His work is especially important when you consider that 20 percent of Tongans live in poverty and that an estimated 30 percent of Australia’s homeless youths identify as LGBT. It’s likely that some of his clients are LGBT and that they, along with many people around the world, now see Taufatofua and his home country with newfound respect and wonder.