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Tonga’s oiled-up flag bearer competed at the 2018 Winter Olympics

Pita Taufatofua, Tonga’s only Olympic athlete this year, is now a cross-country skier.

Tonga athlete Pita Taufatofua marches at the opening ceremonies of the 2018 Winter Olympics. KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV/AFP/Getty Images

Pita Taufatofua, the oiled-up and shirtless Tongan athlete who held his country’s flag aloft two years ago in Brazil — and damn near broke the internet because of it — marched again during the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea. He competed in the Games as a cross-country skier.

Earlier in February, he warned his adoring-but-then-definitely-disappointed fans that this would be the case in an interview with New Zealand’s Stuff: “I want to still be alive for my race. It’s going to be freezing, so I will be keeping nice and warm.”

But his admirers likely weren’t disappointed during the opening ceremonies as he danced in front of thousands of athletes and a global audience.

That’s because Taufatofua marched shirtless and — yes — oiled up despite very chilly weather. He felt confident before heading out without much to keep him warm: “I won’t freeze,” Taufatofua said. “I am from Tonga. We sailed across the Pacific. This is nothing.”

Taufatofua, 34, was the only representative of Tonga at the Olympics — and he almost didn’t make it. According to NBC Sports, he made the cut during the final qualifying weekend last month in Iceland. Before that, he failed to qualify in seven previous attempts during events around the world including Colombia, Turkey, Poland, and Armenia.

“People don’t see the hard work that goes behind,” he told NBC. “They just see the shiny guy that walks with the flag.”

The Tongan last competed during the Rio Olympics in 2016 in taekwondo, but lost in his opening match.

Without his shirt off, viewers may not be as excited to see Taufatofua at the Olympics. But rest assured: He’s happy to be there, shirt and all.

“We sacrificed everything to be here. Financially I’m in the worst position ever but I’m the happiest ever,” he told the Olympic Channel.

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