Pita Taufatofua’s qualifying road to PyeongChang 2018 is the stuff of Hollywood movie scripts. The second Tongan ever to attend the Winter Olympics once picked cassava on the weekends and shared a one-bedroom house with seven other people. But 20 years of hard work took him to Rio 2016 competing in tae kwon do, and now to PyeongChang, where he’ll be the first Tongan in history to compete in Olympic skiing.


Photo Credit: Pita Taufatofua/Instagram

The twist? Pita only learned how to ski a year ago, and he had only trained 10 weeks on actual snow. He raced in several countries, got stranded in airports, failed to qualify over and over again, and stumbled and fell countless of times before qualifying. Yet he’s about to reach several historic milestones at the 2018 Winter Olympics. To celebrate Taufatofua’s perseverance and his embodiment of the Olympic spirit, here are 12 inspirational quotes:

On material wealth

Financially I’m in the worst position ever. But I’m the happiest ever.

On sports

On perception vs. reality

People don’t see the work that goes on behind. People only see the shiny guy that walks with a flag, but so much work has been put in. Not just me, but the whole team, the whole country, and all the people who support us.

On roots

This week I’m going to start with Gratitude. This was our little 1 bedroom house that 8 of us lived. We use to fill buckets with water from the tank to shower and wash up. When it rained we used those same buckets to collect all the water that would drip through the roof. Each year during cyclone season we would pray that we weren’t hit because even the smallest wind would shake the house, causing it to moan and creak. Back then we couldn’t afford much let alone a lawn mower. One day that grass caught on fire and acres of it went up in flames we fought frantically and by some miracle prevented our little house burning. That hole you see next to the window had a large beehive in it. Instead of removing it we kept it there for honey. We couldn’t afford honey. Lighting most nights was with candles because electricity was expensive when it worked. Having soo many people in such a small space was difficult but my parents never complained and always tried to make light of a difficult situation. Perhaps that is where I get it from. They would always find a way of providing. This post isn’t soo much about being grateful for where I am now, which I am; but it is about being grateful for the opportunity and the privilege to grow up in that little house where I learnt to appreciate the true value of life and the people in it. Not long after we left a cyclone wiped that little house out but The memories and lessons will last forever. #life #gratitude #tonga #mystory

A post shared by Pita Taufatofua (Pita T) (@pita_tofua) on

On being an inspirational figure

On motivation

On talent

On reaching high

On success

1) Begin with Gratitude- There are soo many things to be grateful for. Your health, your family, your friends, shelter and food. Acknowledge them all. 2)Set a goal that serves humanity- Our big new year mistake is to start with a goal that serves us. This should come second. First we serve others and then we are rewarded. This is why giving feels soo good. 3) Start Slow and build momentum- Starting the year with huge dreams is great but nothing is achieved until we build momentum. How many New Years resolutions have failed before the end of January? Start slow and grow. Español 1. Comenzar con gratitud 2. Establecer una meta que sirva a la humanidad 3. Comenzar despacio y construir el momentum #2018 #newyear #motivate #motivation #goalsanddreams #goalsetting #dreams #inspire #inspired #love #peace #humanity #happyNewYear

A post shared by Pita Taufatofua (Pita T) (@pita_tofua) on

On the Olympic spirit

Today, last year I lost a very close friend to a rare form of cancer. He was the kindest well mannered family man you would ever meet. While I was preparing for the Olympics he was taking his daughter and wife for one last trip around the world, he wanted to share it with them before he took his next journey. I didn’t know he was sick, I didn’t ask the right questions. I later heard he didn’t want to burden us with his pain. He was that sort of guy. He was one of the few people who never gave up on me despite the tough times and always knew I would be an Olympian. And he was one of the first to message me with words of wisdom despite his pain when things took off for me in Rio. I never replied to his message. I was too caught up in the noise. I had missed the small window to catch up with him before he passed. This was a big life lessons for me. This isn’t or shouldn’t be a sad story, but one of reflection and to motivate us to live a life full of people and purpose. To me this is a happy story 🙂 I share this firstly to celebrate his life and secondly as a reminder to:- “ Enjoy life, it is a Privilege to be on this earth ” Vaughan Boucher 2016 #2A #inspired #living

A post shared by Pita Taufatofua (Pita T) (@pita_tofua) on

On medals

Medals? Medals are good. But the Olympic spirit is the most important thing to me.

On leading by example