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Olympic postponement: Pita aims to improve and qualify in kayaking

Nuku'alofa, Tonga

Pita Taufatofua training in kayak sprinting. 15 February 2020. Photo: Pita Taufatofua Facebook

By Eleanor Gee

The postponing of the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games will give Tongan athlete Pita Taufatofua time to improve in his new sport of sprint kayaking and another chance of Olympic qualification in the sport.

The world famous Tongan flag bearer at the 2016 Rio Olympics (taekwondo), and 2018 Winter Olympics (cross country skiing), had already qualified for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics in taekwondo last month and is aiming to make history by qualifying in a third different sport.

“In some way, there is the benefit of having more time to prepare especially in the sport of kayaking as there is the possibility, however slim, of an Olympic qualification there,” he told Matangi Tonga on 25 March. 

The extra time will also give Pita the chance to fully heal from an injury sustained prior to a kayak Olympic qualification race last month, although he went on to qualify in taekwondo.

“With regards to the Olympics being postponed, I feel it was the right choice for the safety of the athletes and the spectators and all involved.”

“That said, had it continued on in July then I would have ensured that we found our way there, virus or no virus, so that Tonga could be represented,” he said.

The postponement of the Games due to the COVID-19 outbreak globally means athletes will have another long year of training added to their regime, which means they will also need more support.

Tongan team

Pita has already reached out to TASANOC and informed them “that we will be using this time as best we can to prepare for Tokyo 2020ne and that we won’t be slowing down our training in any capacity but will be increasing it”.

“They were very supportive,” he said.

Pita and Malia Paseka are the only two athletes who have qualified for the Olympics in Taekwondo for Tonga so far.

“My coach Master Paula and I, along with Malia, will be working hard,” he said.

“We will do all that we can to make Tongans all over the World proud to be Tongan.”

“We call for the support of the Tongan people and government to help us with what will be another full year training camp.”