30 Apr 2019

Sport: Tonga's Pita Taufatofua reveals Olympic kayaking dream

10:34 am on 30 April 2019

Pita Taufatofua has revealed plans to represent Tonga in kayaking at the 2020 Games in Tokyo.

The 35 year old double Olympian first made global headlines with a shirtless entrance as Tonga's flagbearer at the 2016 Summer Games in Rio, a feat he repeated at last year's Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang.

Tonga's flagbearer Pita Nikolas Taufatofua leads his delegation during the opening ceremony of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.

Pita Taufatofua first made global headlines at the 2016 Rio Olympics. Photo: AFP

After representing his country in taekwondo and cross-country skiing, Taufatofua told RNZ Pacific in July last year he planned to take up another new sport in time for Tokyo 2020.

He's now revealed to the BBC he wants to be a sprint kayaker and has set his sights on qualifying for the K1 200m event in Japan.

"It's a sport that's close to my heart as it's what my ancestors did for thousands of years when they colonised the Polynesian islands," he told BBC Sport.

"I'm currently training with a recreational kayak which is a completely different size and weight to the professional ones you'll see at the Olympics," said the 35 year old.

"A new kayak could be anything up to $US10,000 but I'm also looking for a partner or two that wants to be part of this journey and believes in what we're doing."

The World Canoe Sprint Championships in Szeged, Hungary in August will provide Taufatofua with his first chance to qualify for Tokyo, if he can secure a top-five finish, with the Oceania continental qualifier in February 2020 a more realistic target.

Taufatofua estimates it will cost about $US150,00 to fund his Olympic quest for the next 12-15 months.

If successful, the Brisbane-based athlete would become the first man this century to compete in three Olympic sports - and he told the BBC he also hasn't ruled out a return to taekwondo.

"Two different sports at one Olympics, now that would be something wouldn't it?"

Morocco's Samir Azzimani (L) congratulates Tonga's Pita Taufatofua after he crossed the finish line during 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.  / AFP PHOTO / FRANCK FIFE

Pita Taufatofua after he crossed the finish line during the men's 15km cross country freestyle at the 2018 Winter Olympics. Photo: AFP or licensors