Commonwealth Games: Kiribati star thrills crowd

By Kris Shannon

David Katoatau of Kiribati drops the bar during the Men's Weighlifting 75kg Group A Final. Photo / Getty Images.
David Katoatau of Kiribati drops the bar during the Men's Weighlifting 75kg Group A Final. Photo / Getty Images.

Although Kiwi fans were keen to see Stanislav Chalaev win weightlifting gold today, David Katoatau of the Kiribati would have been a popular second choice.

He certainly was a well-liked winner among the capacity crowd packed inside the Clyde Auditorium in Glasgow, with his strength, smile and, especially, his dance moves endearing him early and often to the watching spectators.

And if those fans were having a good time, one can only imagine the party that was taking place in in Katoatau's home land of Kiribati. The tiny island nation situated in the middle of the Pacific Ocean has only 100,000 citizens and, before tonight, no medallists at the Commonwealth Games.

Katoatau, his country's flag bearer at the last two Olympics, changed all that with one lift - then proceeded to celebrate in style.

Not content with the 194kg he managed in the clean and jerk to clinch gold and relegate Chalaev to silver, Katoatau came back out and hoisted 200kg over his head, seemingly without a care in the world.

Ever the showman, he worked the crowd into a frenzy, dancing nimbly on a stage usually reserved for feats of brute strength, urging them to make even more noise as he prepared for a third and last lift.

Although he failed in his final attempt at 205kg, the smile fixed to his face never diminished, only growing when the Kiribati flag was raised for the first time in 20 Commonwealth Games.

"I feel so happy - I'm so proud," he said looking down at the precious piece of gold around his neck. "I want to thank the people of my country ... it shows that you should never give up and keep training.

"I will have a big party when I get home."

The party has undoubtedly started without him.

- APNZ

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