30 Aug 2017

Sport: Tonga'sTaufatofua says Winter Olympics dream still alive

3:24 pm on 30 August 2017

Tongan athlete Pita Taufatofua says perseverance is the key in his ambitious bid to qualify for the Winter Olympics.

The 33-year-old made global headlines as Tonga's flagbearer at the Rio Olympics last year.

Tonga's flagbearer Pita Nikolas Taufatofua leads his delegation during the opening ceremony of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.

Tonga's flagbearer Pita Taufatofua leads his delegation during the opening ceremony of the Rio Olympic Games. Photo: AFP

He announced in December he was taking a break from taekwondo and putting on skis in an attempt to qualify for February's Winter Games in Pyeongchang.

Taufatofua finished 153rd of 156 competitors in the men's sprint qualification race at the World Championships in February.

Pita Taufatofua

Pita Taufatofua Photo: Supplied/Instagram

The Oceania Championship taekwondo gold medallist said skiing was far removed from his island background.

"It's cold and the weather is completely different and even the whole ski process, the athletic part of it as well you are using different muscles, you are using muscles you have never used before," he said.

"We get up early. We get up early, we run. When you are not skiing you are roller skiing. It's basically like roller blades and you are just powering along.

"The discipline is quite hard as you have that thing 'it's too cold'. With summer sports you can get up and you don't have that barrier but with winter sports you look outside and you can't see anything.

"It's cold and its freezing and you have got to put on ten layers of different things and that is a big challenge and all challenges can be overcome.

"Then you have to go and breathe this air for like 20, 30, 40 kilometre sessions so that's a big challenge".

Pita Taufatofua

Pita Taufatofua Photo: RNZ Pacific: Sela Jane Hopgood

Taufatofua said that Pacific people have the potential to do well in different sports and encourages others not to let a lack of funds, or the environment, stop them from being the best in any sport.

"The next six months the goal is to try to qualify for the Olympics, we had like CNN and all those other ones telling us that, quite possibly, it is an impossible task and for us as Pacific Islanders, all that says [to me] is try a little bit harder and you'll make it," he said.

Tonga's Pita Taufatofua lands a blow on Iran's Sajjad Mardani during their men's in his +80kg taekwondo qualifying bout in Rio.

Pita Taufatofua competing at the Rio Olympics. Photo: AFP

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