Tuvalu News

Tuvalu lifter on quest for sinking island

Source: TV NZ

August 12, 2008

For centuries, Tuvalu islanders have sailed away in a traditional boat, so weightlifter Logona Esau asked for an image of the vessel to be tattooed onto his arm for a very modern voyage: Tuvalu's first Olympics.

Tuvalu is mainly in the news because of global warming, with rising sea levels threatening to erase the tiny islands that make up the South Pacific nation.

But 21-year-old Esau and the two track and field athletes that also represent Tuvalu in Beijing hope to make their islands known for more than just being a victim of climate change.

"In Tuvalu, the men use this when they go away, when they are going out on a boat, and now, when we go and play abroad," Esau said in his gentle Pacific lilt, pushing up his sleeve to reveal an intricate tattoo that covers his bulging, tanned biceps.

"I had it done this year, as good luck for the Olympics."

Esau trains at a weightlifting gym on the island of New Caledonia, and is competing in the 69kg category at the Games. He occasionally returns to his home on Nukufetau, a speck on the world map with a population of 400, for a break. Asked whether he worries that his island is drowning, he shrugs and laughs.

"I hear it on the news, but whenever I go to Tuvalu, I never see it," he says about the rising sea levels.

Walking down the road in front of the weightlifting venue, flanked by half a dozen smiling Pacific weightlifters, Esau is hard to miss. The region has sent a range of newcomers to the Games, encouraged by the sporting success of weightlifter Marcus Stephen from Nauru, who went on to become president.

On the nine islands that form part of Tuvalu, Esau is already a star. Islanders pass messages to him via his parents and eight siblings, cheering him on and wishing him good luck for the Games.

And Esau's plans for his next trip home strike a very different rhythm to the frenetic, tense pace of athletes competing in muggy, hazy Beijing.

"When I go back, I go fishing, go around the island. Just enjoy it and relax," he said, resting after his competition.

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