By Megan McCluskey
January 22, 2018

Pita Taufatofua, the martial artist who made waves as Tonga’s oiled-up flag bearer at the Rio 2016 Summer Games, is officially set to compete at the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea. Only this time, he’ll be cross country skiing.

After losing his opening round taekwondo match in Rio to Iran’s Sajjad Mardani, Taufatofua has turned to a new sport in order to qualify for the Winter Games. But even after two years of training, it wasn’t until Saturday — the final day of the qualification period — that he earned the score required to race in PyeongChang.

“After Rio I decided to find the hardest sport possible, because I needed a new challenge, and the hardest sport possible was cross country skiing,” he told the Olympic Channel. “You know look at the conditions, it’s like freezing, it’s negative a million degrees, and then you’ve got to put your body through something really challenging.”

Taufatofua will be the second Tongan athlete ever to compete at a Winter Olympics.

Watch his post-qualifying interview below.

Write to Megan McCluskey at megan.mccluskey@timeinc.com.

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