The Olympics Opening Ceremonies may have had a lot of lows, but they had one glistening high: Pita Taufatofua, tae kwon do competitor and the flag-bearer for Tonga. Taufatofua came out oiled and shirtless wearing a ta’ovala, a mat worn during formal occasions. Taufatofua went on The Today Show to talk about his big entrance, and while Al Roker was trying to do an interview with him, Hoda Kotb and Jenna Bush Hager were much more invested in rubbing coconut oil on him. And do they rub.
But let’s not just exotify him! Taufatofua has said that it was his idea to wear the ta’ovala as a way to represent his country. “For us it was important to get our culture out to the world,” Taufatofua told Today. “I said to them, I want to march in what our ancestors wore 200 years ago and this is what it was.” He also wore a kafa, a belt that his aunt gave him before she died, as a way to pay tribute to her. “She was there for the struggle, but she wasn’t able to see what we’ve done,” Taufatofua told the Chicago Tribune. You can catch him on August 19 when he competes in the 80 kg weight class.
Taufatofua has a lot of that Olympic grit: The 32-year-old athlete is the first Tongan to compete at the Olympics in tae kwon do. He missed qualifying for the Olympics three times, and has suffered a number of serious injuries, which include multiple broken bones, torn ligaments, and months in a wheelchair and on crutches. He also attempted to self-fund a tae kwon do training camp as a way to prepare for the Olympics, but sadly didn’t meet his goal.
Best of all, Taufatofua spends a great deal of his time helping underprivileged kids. So he can beat up bad guys and would be a great dad. Okay, now you can go look at his Instagram.