Olympics

‘I won’t freeze. I am from Tonga.’ Shirtless Olympian steals show at opening ceremony

Pita Taufatofua carries the flag of Tonga during the opening ceremony of the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, Friday, Feb. 9, 2018.
Pita Taufatofua carries the flag of Tonga during the opening ceremony of the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, Friday, Feb. 9, 2018. AP

Just as he did two years ago at the Summer Olympics, Pita Taufatofua bared his oiled-up chest proudly before the Winter Games in Pyeongchang.

And the display again drew tons of love as fans worldwide watched the opening ceremony, which was televised on the U.S. West Coast on tape-delay at 5 p.m. Friday (re-aired at 8 p.m.).

Though his ceremonial garb was the same, things will be much different this time for Taufatofua. He competed in taekwando during the 2016 games in Rio de Janeiro; in Pyeongchang, he’ll be cross-country skiing. And if you were wondering: Yes, Tonga is an island in the Pacific. No, it does not snow there.

“I won't freeze. I am from Tonga. We sailed across the Pacific. This is nothing,” he said, according to the Olympic news service. “It's a little bit warmer being in Rio than in here ... but anytime you get to represent your country is a good time.”

Taufatofua started skiing just last year, and said it’s “the hardest thing I’ve ever done.”

Taufatofua had originally said he wouldn’t show up shirtless, according to USA Today, wanting to keep warm as ceremony temperatures were about 28 degrees. But he either changed his mind or wanted to keep the element of surprise.

Many Twitter users praised the well-built athlete.

See photos from the opening ceremony of the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, Friday, Feb. 9, 2018.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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