Rio 2016: Kiribati weightlifter comes in last place - but gets biggest cheer for dance 'to highlight climate change'

David Katoatau says he wants to raise awareness of his island nation - before it disappears forever

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The Independent Online

A weightlifter from Kiribati who finished last in his category was nonetheless awarded the biggest cheer of the night after he danced off stage to raise awareness of the plight of his island nation.

David Katoatau came in sixth in his group and 15th overall in the 105kg weight class, lifting a total of 349kg - 82kg behind gold medal-winner Ruslan Nurudinov of Uzbekistan, who broke an Olympic record in the process.

Yet the competitor from Kiribati got more cheers than Nurudinov or any other lifter, including a Brazilian, as he kissed the bar and danced off stage, telling the crowd: “I’ll be dancing again tonight."

Katoatau has spoken in the past about how he lost his home to extreme weather, and the Kiribati government says the central Pacific nation is "suffering extreme coastal erosion, not just of the beaches but also of the land".

Speaking to Reuters after his performance on Monday night, 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 wrote an open letter to the world last year to tell people about all the homes lost to rising sea levels. I don’t know how many years it will be before it sinks.”

After winning gold at the 2014 Commonwealth Games, Katoatau wrote about how the nation he represented could disappear under the sea in less than 30 years. As one of the strongest men in the world, he said he had "never felt so helpless in my life". That letter can be found here.

Kataoatau spent the state award he received for his 2014 gold medal on a home for his parents on Tarawa atoll, the most populated of Kiribati’s more than 30 atolls and islands. The house was destroyed in a cyclone soon after its construction.

"We don’t have the resources to save ourselves," he said.