Pita Taufatofua, Tonga's Oiled-Up Flagbearer, Is Back and Bringing the Heat to the Olympics Opening Ceremony

Pita Taufatofua
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After making headlines in 2016 and 2018, he returned to the Olympics Opening Ceremony to represent Tonga.

He's back! After making headlines in Rio in 2016 and again at the Winter Games in Pyeongchang in 2018, Pita Taufatofua brought the heat as Team Tonga took center stage during the Parade of Nations at the Opening Ceremony of the Tokyo Olympics Friday. The shirtless, oiled-up athlete led his nation as the flagbearer alongside his teammate, Malia Paseka, both dressed in traditional Tongan garb.

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The 37-year-old Olympian opened up to the New York Times ahead of the Games earlier this week, where he said he's still shocked by the overwhelming reaction to his traditional outfit.

"It was really a surprise to me," he shared. "All of a sudden, within a day, the social media went through the roof. Who’s your manager? We need to talk. I didn’t even know what those words meant."

Taufatofua is expected to compete in taekwondo in the weeks to come. 

"It’s an honor to fight these guys," he told the New York Times. "I’m not out there to be the best in the world. I’m out here to be the best version of me."

The Opening Ceremony concluded with the lighting of the Olympic flame. Tennis star Naomi Osaka, who was born in Japan and renounced her U.S. citizenship to play for her home country in the Games, had the honor of lighting the cauldron with the Olympic flame, which signaled the start of the Tokyo Olympics.

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The 2021 Tokyo Olympics run from July 21 to Aug. 8, and will be broadcast on NBC, NBCOlympics.com, on the NBC Sports app, and on Peacock, NBCUniversal's streaming service. In the meantime, stay tuned to ETonline.com for complete Olympics coverage.