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Tonga’s oiled up Olympic flagbearer is back, shirtless, shiny and show-stopping

New York Daily News logo New York Daily News 7/23/2021 Muri Assunção
a person wearing a costume: Malia Paseka and Pita Taufatofua, of Tonga, carry their country's flag during the opening ceremony in the Olympic Stadium at the 2020 Summer Olympics, Friday, July 23, 2021, in Tokyo, Japan. (Hannah McKay/Pool Photo via AP) © HANNAH MCKAY Malia Paseka and Pita Taufatofua, of Tonga, carry their country's flag during the opening ceremony in the Olympic Stadium at the 2020 Summer Olympics, Friday, July 23, 2021, in Tokyo, Japan. (Hannah McKay/Pool Photo via AP)

Tonga’s well-oiled sports machine was back on the Olympics stage at Friday’s opening ceremony — and viewers are loving it.

Pita Taufatofua is the taekwondo practitioner, skier and canoeist who set the internet ablaze in 2016, when he entered Maracanã stadium in Rio de Janeiro proudly carrying his country’s flag at the opening ceremony of those Summer Games.

A lot has changed in the world since then. But thankfully, some things — including Taufatofua’s shiny 6-pack — remain the same.

a group of people posing for a picture: Malia Paseka and Pita Taufatofua, of Tonga, carry their country's flag during the opening ceremony in the Olympic Stadium at the 2020 Summer Olympics, Friday, July 23, in Tokyo, Japan. © Provided by New York Daily News Malia Paseka and Pita Taufatofua, of Tonga, carry their country's flag during the opening ceremony in the Olympic Stadium at the 2020 Summer Olympics, Friday, July 23, in Tokyo, Japan.

Malia Paseka and Pita Taufatofua, of Tonga, carry their country's flag during the opening ceremony in the Olympic Stadium at the 2020 Summer Olympics, Friday, July 23, in Tokyo, Japan. (HANNAH MCKAY/)

“The shirtless Tonga flag-bearer is an Olympic icon. His abs are also an Olympic icon. He also went shirtless in 2016 and he’s represented Tonga at both the Summer and Winter Games. He’s 37 years old,” freelance journalist Sabrina Maddeaux tweeted.

a person wearing a costume: Pita Taufatofua, of Tonga, walks during the opening ceremony in the Olympic Stadium at the 2020 Summer Olympics, Friday, July 23, in Tokyo, Japan. © Provided by New York Daily News Pita Taufatofua, of Tonga, walks during the opening ceremony in the Olympic Stadium at the 2020 Summer Olympics, Friday, July 23, in Tokyo, Japan.

Pita Taufatofua, of Tonga, walks during the opening ceremony in the Olympic Stadium at the 2020 Summer Olympics, Friday, July 23, in Tokyo, Japan. (Petr David Josek/)

Taufatofua’s claim to international fame was his appearance at the Rio Games, when he wore a traditional Tongan costume and sent Twitter feeds into overdrive.

But since then he continued on his journey to Olympic stardom, also qualifying in cross-country skiing for the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

He’s now back for his third Olympics in five years, when he’s set to compete Tuesday in taekwondo in the men’s 80kg round of 16.

And Twitter took note.

The 6′3″, 220-pound meme-generating two-sport Olympian is also a motivational speaker, has a degree in engineering, and was named an ambassador for UNICEF in 2018.

After his internet-breaking appearance on Friday, Taufatofua — who was the first athlete from Tonga to ever compete in the Olympics in taekwondo — took to social media to celebrate another history-making feat.

“A special congratulations to our Flag Bearer, Malia Paseka,” the Olympian tweeted. “She did an amazing job leading the way for more participation of females and youth in sport in Tonga. So proud to walk alongside our first ever female taekwondo Olympian!”

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