Pacific Ocean

Weightlifter Wins Over Rio With Dancing, Smiles

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Tom Pennington/Getty Images

David Katoatau is a three-time Olympian in weightlifting for the nation of Kiribati.

You’ve probably never heard of Katoatau. And you may not have any idea where Kiribati is, either.

But Katoatau, 32, is the pride and joy of the tiny island nation located in the central tropical Pacific Ocean. Not only has he represented Kiribati in the last three Olympic Games, but he’s been the flag bearer in each one.

You may have briefly spotted him during the Parade of Nations in the bright blue blazer spinning and dancing with a huge smile on his face for all the world to see.

And it’s that dancing and joyous demeanor that has made him stand out among all of his competitors in Rio.

Want proof? Watch this:

Dancing is Katoatau’s thing. It doesn’t matter if he wins a medal or fails on his lift, he always ends his competitions with a dance and a smile.

Watch the following videos to see a man thoroughly enjoying what he does for a living: 

But Katoatau also has a serious side. His country could be significantly impacted by sea-level rise, as some predict that Kiribati may only be about 30 years away from being wiped off the world map.

There are plans in place to relocate the entire population — which is currently at about 110,000 — when, not if, that happens. Kiribati has already purchased 6,000 acres of land on Fiji’s second-biggest island, Vanua Levu, for relocation purposes.

Katoatau is trying to use his weightlifting fame to bring attention to the fate his country is preparing to experience. Last year he wrote a letter to plea for help.

“I beg the countries of the world to see what is happening to Kiribati,” he said in the letter. “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."

You can read the entire letter here.

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