Where’s Pita Taufatofua? Shirtless Tongan Olympian skips 2022 games

You may not recognize Pita Taufatofua’s name, but if you’ve watched the past couple of Olympic opening ceremonies, you would recognize him in a heartbeat.

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Taufatofua has been the flag bearer for Tonga in both the Summer and Winter Olympics since 2014. No matter the conditions, Taufatofua walked into the stadiums wearing nothing but his traditional skirt and no shirt — just oil on his arms and torso, Yahoo Sports reported.

But this year, Taufatofua is missing the events in Beijing.

The taekwondo and cross-country skiing Olympian is sitting out the 2022 games as his home country, Tonga, recovers from a volcanic explosion last month, People magazine reported.

He broke the news on social media saying that he would not be taking part this year.

Taufatofua hadn’t qualified for the games by the time of the disaster and chose not to attempt to make the games, The New York Times reported.

“Even with the qualification criteria, I wouldn’t have been able to go to Beijing,” he said, according to the Times, because in Tonga, there are “too many people who are hungry for me to not be focused there.”

“I’ll certainly miss it,” Taufatofua said, but “what the Olympics stands for is more than just sport, and so I feel there’s some level of Olympic effort that we’re doing now anyway.”

He’s also doing his part to raise money to help with the recovery after the volcanic eruption.

Despite not being in Beijing in person, Taufatofua said he can feel the energy from the opening ceremonies.

BBC Sports responded to his tweet, saying it hopes to see him at the next Olympics in Paris in 2024.

American Samoa’s flag-bearer Nathan Crumpton took up the shirt-less Winter Olympic challenge. He marched into the stadium as he represents his country in the Parade of Nations wearing only his traditional skirt and like Taufatofua, without a shirt, NBC News reported. Crumpton is competing in skeleton in the Winter Olympics. He also competes in the Summer games competing in track and field events.