Winter Olympics: Tonga's Pita Taufatofua qualifies for skiing at Pyeongchang Games

Winter Olympics: Tonga's Pita Taufatofua qualifies for skiing at Pyeongchang Games

Winter Olympics: Tonga's Pita Taufatofua qualifies for skiing at Pyeongchang Games

Updated 22 January 2018, 15:35 AEDT

In what's being pitched as a Pacific version of the hit 1993 film Cool Runnings, Tongan Pita Taufatofua follows up his Rio Olympics appearance with qualification for the cross country skiing event at the Winter Games.

In what's being pitched as a Pacific version of the hit 1993 film Cool Runnings, Tongan Pita Taufatofua has qualified for the cross country skiing event at the Winter Olympics.

Making the feat even more remarkable, Taufatofua is already a summer Olympian having competed at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games in taekwondo.

Not only is there no snow in the Pacific Island country of Tonga, but Taufatofua only saw snow for the first time in his life two years ago.

"After Rio I decided to find the hardest sport possible, because I needed a new challenge, and the hardest sport possible was cross country skiing," the 34-year-old told the Olympic Channel.

"You know look at the conditions, it's like freezing, it's negative a million degrees, and then you've got to put your body through something really challenging."

Not one for doing things the easy way, Taufatofua left it until the very last day of the qualification period to reach the required standard for the Pyeongchang Games.

In one final bid, he travelled to Iceland in search of the points he needed.

"I was like, 'please God give me a 418' and I saw it. Today was a miracle," he said.

"The goal was to do it in one year. And we did it in one year.

"Twenty years I sacrificed to become a summer Olympian, and one year to become a winter Olympian."

From taekwondo to roller blades to snow slopes

Taufatofua first made headlines at the Rio Games as Tonga's bare-chested flag carrier at the opening ceremony.

He went on to lose his opening round taekwondo bout at the Games to Iranian Sajjad Mardani 16-1.

Soon after Taufatofua turned his mind to skiing and will now become just the second Tongan athlete to participate at a Winter Olympics.

"You know everyone looks at Tonga as this little dot in the Pacific. Not any more. Everyone's going to know where Tonga is," he said.

"For those that missed it in Rio, you guys are going to know where Tonga is now."

Better known for its tropical climate and rugby prowess, Tonga was not the easiest place to launch a skiing career.

Taufatofua began by practicing on roller blades before moving onto snow slopes overseas.

He said qualification was about more than just him.

"This is big for Tonga … It's about all of us," he said.

"This is only special if it inspires somebody else to become something bigger than themselves."