Kiribati’s ‘Golden Boy’ David Katoatau will be rounding off Kiribati’s participation in the Rio 2016 Olympic Games in the Men’s 105kg Weightlifting event tomorrow afternoon.
The 32 year old Commonwealth Champion will be competing at the Rio Centro Olympic venue at 3:30pm tomorrow.
David, who now lives and trains in New Caledonia, began weightlifting at the age of 16.
“I started lifting in 2000 when my parents were working in Nauru. Weightlifting was a big deal in Nauru at the time and I went to watch Marcus Stephen lift for Nauru at the Commonwealth Games in 2002. So I looked at him and wanted to become like him.”
Inspired by his success, David began training with Marcus Stephen’s coach, Paul Coffa, who David describes as “the best coach in the world”. In 2014, David bagged Kiribati’s first ever Commonwealth gold medal at the Glasgow Games in 2014, after lifting a total of 348kg, earning him the title of “Golden Boy” back in Kiribati.
David and his coach having been working hard to prepare for this year’s Olympics:
“I’ve been training hard for these Games. I work hard and my coach works hard because this is a big event. We train 3 times a day. We have to try our very best in this competition”
Speaking of the competitors in his group, which includes Germany’s Jurgen Spiess and Iraq’s Salwan Jasim Abbood Abbood, David explained:
“My competition is strong, so I have to try my very best to compete with them.”
A third time Olympic flagbearer for Kiribati, David whipped up a storm at this year’s opening ceremony with his dancing, after making his moves a staple part of his competitions at the 2014 Glasgow Games. Apart from his obvious lust for life, David has a practical motive behind his moves:
“I like to dance because I want people to know about Kiribati. Because often people ask me, ‘Where’s Kiribati?’ And then they say ‘Oh yeah, Kiribati, I saw you dancing!’ That’s what they always do. So I want the crowd to see me and know about Kiribati.”
David has taken on the responsibility of using his profile as an athlete to raise people’s awareness of Kiribati, a low lying island nation which could be the first country to be lost due to rising sea levels.
As well as making others aware of Kiribati, David is enjoying sharing the Olympic experience with other nations whilst living in the Athletes’ Village.
¨This place is so beautiful, living with people from different countries. These people are heroes in their countries - I’m so happy to be in the village with them.¨
The Kiribati Olympic team is small but close knit – David explained how he and his fellow Kiribati athletes, 18 year old Karitaake Tewaaki and 21 year old John Ruka, both track athletes, all support each other:
“They’ve been doing great too. We all support each other, asking how training is going. I support them to do their very best for their country.”
As the oldest athlete in his team, David is keen to pass on his experience to younger teammates:
“ I just want to support them in what they are doing. If they want to be the best, they just have to train hard and believe in themselves. And they can become like me in the future.”
One thing David could certainly help Olympic first timers John and Karitaake with is mastering the art of enjoying the Games, rather than letting nerves overcome them.
“This is my third Olympic Games. At my first in 2008, I was very nervous, but now I feel more comfortable. This time I’m ready – no more nerves.”
Despite having cracked the Olympic challenge of exchanging nerves for excitement, don’t be mistaken that David isn’t taking his role as Kiribati’s “Golden Boy” seriously, as making Kiribati proud is clearly his top priority.
¨I have a responsibility to do my best for my country – that’s why I’m here.¨
By Alice Toomer Mcalpine
Last Modified on 16/08/2016 08:21