Shirtless flag-bearer who went viral during Rio just qualified for Winter Olympics

Paul Gilham/Getty Images

Tonga’s famous flag-bearer has qualified for the 2018 Winter Olympics.

You might remember Pita Nikolas Taufatofua from the Parade of Nations at the Rio 2016 Olympic Opening ceremony.

Picture:Picture: Paul Gilham/Getty Images 

He first became famous in Rio after pictures of him carrying the Tongan flag gave Twitter some fuel for its fire.

The athlete is now making headlines for securing a place for the cross-country skiing event on the last day of qualifications.

People are very happy for him.

The Winter Olympics has even gained a few new fans.

Originally a taekwondo fighter, he represented his country in Rio last year before deciding to give himself a new challenge.

He set himself a year to train for the qualifiers and after seven failed races, he finally qualified Tonga for the event - as the first ever Winter Olympics skiier for the country - and will be travelling to South Korea next month.

Taufatofua made a video on Facebook, detailing the gruelling training he had to undergo in order to stand a chance at qualifying.

There was the finances, there was the training. I had to lose 15kg to be a bit faster.

I’ve had probably 10 weeks all up on snow – there’s no snow where I come from in Tonga so we had to use roller skis.

He set up a GoFundMe page to help raise money to help with travel and equipment.

The athlete, who said he worked for "15 years counselling homeless youth”, plans to donate 20 per cent of raised funds back to Royal Tonga ski Federation.

Picture:Picture: Olympic Channel screengrab 

Of his success, he said:

This I give all to the big man upstairs.

This is a miracle. There’s nothing I have that’s special.

This is all the big man upstairs. 

Not all heroes wear capes.

Or in this case, shirts.

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