Sports

Weightlifter’s Bizarre Flailing About In Middle Of Competition Makes Wonderful Sense

by Kate Ryan

August 19, 2016
Image via YouTube/NBC Universal

If you were looking for a favorite Olympian to cement these 2016 Rio Games as the most memorable yet, then do we have a guy for you. During the 105kg weightlifting competition on Monday, David Katoatau showed the world his epic dance moves in between lifting enormous weights.

Spectators from around the world, however, might be surprised to learn he wasn’t dancing to celebrate his sixth-place finish. Rather, he danced his heart out to bring awareness to Kiribati, his island nation and home currently getting swept away by rising tides. Located in the South Pacific, rising sea levels spurred by climate change have been creeping up the shorelines of Kiribati’s 33 coral atolls, endangering the lives of the island’s 102,000 residents.

In an interview with Reuters, Katoatau said, “Most people don’t know where Kiribati is. I want people to know more about us, so I use weightlifting, and my dancing, to show the world. ... I don’t know how many years it will be before it sinks.”

Getting to the Olympics from Kiribati was an accomplishment in itself.  “There was no gym when I started training as a boy, and there is no gym now,” Katoatau told Reuters, “I trained on the beach in the open sun. The bar [on the weights] would become too hot to touch so I had to train at 6 in the morning.”

In an open letter published last fall by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Katoatau wrote of global warming’s extreme consequences and the imminent dangers facing Kiribati. He wrote,

“Everyday my people fear for their lives as their homes are lost to the rising sea levels. We live on an atoll with nothing but flat land and ocean surrounding us. We have nowhere to climb and nowhere to run to… The simple truth is that we do not have the resources to save ourselves. We will be the first to go. It will be the extinction of a race. Open your eyes and look to the other low-lying level islands around the Pacific—they will soon fall with us.”

To learn more about how climate change is currently devastating Kiribati, check out the masterful reporting documented by AJ+ below. And head over to International Business Times to learn how innovators are proposing to build artificial islands to save Pacific Islanders from a disastrous fate.  

Image via YouTube/NBC Universal 

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