The glistening flag bearer for the small island nation of Tonga captivated social media when he led his country’s procession at the Rio 2016 Olympics Ceremony over the weekend.
The Australian-born Tongan man, 32-year-old tae kwan do athlete Pita Taufatofua, wore a shark tooth necklace, a traditional Tongan ceremonial tupenu wrap, and lots and lots of coconut oil.
“In Tonga, it’s traditional,” Pita told the Chicago Tribune.
“In any sort of special event we use coconut oil … for the glisten. But also if it’s a fundraising event, people stick money to it. We use it quite a lot.”
He said he didn’t realise how shiny he was until he saw the reaction on social media.
“It was being applied to me while I was holding the flag by a lovely lady behind me,” he said.
“She was just lathering it on and I had to ask her to stop because my shoes were starting to slip off and it was dripping down.”
— Bruna (@brunanessif) August 6, 2016
I am all about culture and martial oils… I mean muscle arts… I mean… This is very undignified behaviour. Buying air ticket ??. #Tonga
— Robyn (@pozitiveplay) August 6, 2016
— Emily O’Mahoney (@oh_ma_honey) August 6, 2016
— efb?? (@efbman) August 6, 2016
Pita is a professional tae kwon do martial artist and is the first to ever represent Tonga in the Olympic sport. He’ll reportedly compete on August 19.
“It’s (important) for me to get Tonga seen by the world and for everyone around the world to see that you can come from a tiny island country and we can do our bit to bring it to the big boys,” he told the Chicago Tribune.
The 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro continue until August 21.