Tongan flagbearer Pita Taufatofua, who garnered worldwide attention when he carried the Tongan flag oiled up and shirtless at the opening ceremony of the 2016 Rio Olympics, has qualified for next month's Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang.

The former taekwondo athlete switched codes to cross-country skiing following a disappointing first round exit in Rio, and has become Tonga's first-ever skiier to qualify for the Winter Olympics.

"After Rio I decided to find the hardest sport possible because I needed a new challenge," he said.

"You've got to put your body through something really challenging and the goal was to do it in one year - and we did it in one year!"


The 34-year-old's admission into the tournament came down to the final race of his qualification campaign in Iceland.

The Tonga Ski Federation said he finished with enough points required to book his flights to Pyeongchang.

Taufatofua's quest to qualify for the Pyeongchang Olympics has been eventful.

His training consisted of beach workouts and roller-skiing along the streets of Brisbane, Australia as he learned his new sport from scratch.