With his shirtless appearances at the opening ceremonies in Rio and Pyeongchang, Tonga’s Pita Taufatofua has become the very public face of athletes who have competed at both the Summer and Winter Olympics. Taufatofua switched his discipline from taekwondo in Brazil in 2016, to cross-country skiing in South Korea this year, joining the rare breed of athletes who have been able to take part in both types of Olympic games. There are just 161 of them in total.
The most dual games appearances
Japanese politician Seiko Hashimoto holds the record for most appearances among athletes who have competed in both summer and winter. Over a twelve year period she competed in both speed skating and cycling at seven Games. She made her debut in the 1984 Sarajevo Winter Olympics, and bowed out in Atlanta’s 1996 summer games, earning the bronze medal in the 1500 metres speed skating in Albertville in 1992 along the way. After retiring from sport, she was elected to the Japanese upper chamber, the House of Councillors, in 1995. She is chairman of the Japanese skating federation and was Japan’s Chef de Mission at the Rio Olympics, the first woman to hold the role.
The most successful dual discipline athlete
Pita Taufatofua will be remembered more for his bare-chested ceremony appearances than his actual Olympic results. He only just scraped above the qualifying level required to reach the skiing in Pyeongchang this year, and was eliminated in his first Twaekwondo bout back in 2016. You have to go back to the 1920s and 1930s to find the most successful dual competitor.
The USA’s Edward Eagan is, to date, the only person to win a gold medal in both summer and winter in different sports. Having been a lieutenant in the US army during the First World War, he won gold in the light-heavyweight boxing in Antwerp in 1920. Then in 1932 in Lake Placid he formed part of the USA four-man bobsleigh team that claimed victory.
British athletes who appeared in both Olympics
Over the years six British athletes have represented their nation at both a summer and a winter games. The most recent was Allyn Condon. Part of the men’s 4 × 100m relay team in the 2000 Sydney Olympics, Condon switched his attention to to bobsleigh and competed in Vancouver ten years later.
Nearly all of the British competitors took this same route - representing their country in athletics, then moving into bobsleigh. Phil Harries, Marcus Adam, John Herbert and Colin Campbell all did the same thing.
The first Briton to compete in both a Summer and a Winter Olympics did it differently - he was Percy Legard. An all-round athlete, he took part in the 1932 and 1936 Summer Games in the modern pentathlon. He also participated in the 1936 Winter Olympics, where he took part in the Nordic combined event in Bavaria’s Garmisch-Partenkirchen.
After the Second World War, during which he served as a Lieutenant-Colonel in the Commandos, Legard resumed his Olympic career. At the 1948 St. Moritz Winter Olympics, he took part in the demonstration sport of a “winter pentathlon” included in the programme.
Converting from a summer discipline to taking part in bobsleigh is one of the most well-worn routes to taking part in both games. Of the 132 athletes to have appeared in both since the winter and summer Olympics were split into separate occasions, 45 of them have combined bobsleigh with athletics. Speed-skating and cycling is also a popular combination. This is due to how the muscles and body shape required to excel at these differing sports are similar.
How it used to be
Prior to the inaugural Winter Games being held in France’s Chamonix in 1924, some winter sports, including ice hockey, had been included in the summer games. That means there are select band of athletes who competed in both the 1920 Summer Olympics and the 1924 Winter Olympics - but at the same sport. Swedish figure skater Gillis Grafström uniquely won a gold medal in the 1920 Summer Games, and then retained his figure skating title in both the 1924 and 1928 Winter Olympics.