Tonga's Pita Taufatofua looks over after finishing in the men's 15km cross country freestyle at the Alpensia cross country ski centre during the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympic Games on February 16, 2018 in Pyeongchang.
FRANCK FIFE—AFP/Getty Images
By Lena Grossman
February 16, 2018

Winter Olympics skier Pita Taufatofua, also known as the shirtless Tongan flag bearer, finished in 114th place during the 15-kilometer freestyle cross-country skiing event, but he’s walking away from the snow with a positive attitude.

Taufatofua finished 22 minutes, 57.2 seconds behind the race’s gold medalist Dario Cologna, according to NBC. While one of his main goals was not to “ski into a tree,” Taufatofua’s focus was elsewhere. “Everyone was at the front racing to come first, we were racing not to come last,” he said. He didn’t: Mexico’s German Madrazo was the final finisher.

For Taufatofua, the race was about camaraderie and friendship. He told NBC he would rather finish the race “toward the end of the pack with all my friends, than in the middle by myself.”

Taufatofua hopes to inspire other young Tongans to compete in the Winter Olympics, despite being a nation not necessarily known for its snow. His wish for future generations of Tongan Olympians is to “come and take it to the next level.” “You guys come and finish better than I finished,” he said.

The Olympic Games in PyeongChang are Taufatofua’s second Olympics — he competed in the 2016 Olympics in Rio for taekwondo — but the doesn’t see an end in sight any time soon. He isn’t ruling out the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. As of now, he’s looking into “something to do with water.”

Contact us at editors@time.com.

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