Discus thrower Taui Saiasi Hauma was one of three athletes from the tiny Pacific island of Tuvalu who took part in the Nanjing 2014 Youth Olympic Games. And for the 17-year-old, the Games represented a personal triumph as he recorded his best ever throw of 33.45m, a considerable improvement on his previous best mark of 29.71m.
While it was some way off the 64.14m gold medal-winning throw by China’s Cheng Yulong, that took nothing away from Hauma’s sense of pride in his achievement, who has to accommodate his training programme back home within a packed schedule.
“We have heaps of chores to do back home like feeding the pigs and cleaning the house. There’s not much time for training,” he explained.
“I usually train at the sports ground, but sometimes I do not train at all because we don’t have the resources. We don’t have a proper field,” said Hauma, who is currently undecided as to whether he will stay in Tuvalu or seek a scholarship to further his studies and sporting ambitions overseas.
Tuvalu is the fourth smallest country in the world, measuring around 26 square kilometres, and has a population of less than 11,000. Its National Olympic Committee (NOC) first participated in an Olympic Games at Beijing in 2008.
In Nanjing, the Tuvalu delegation in Nanjing comprised three athletes – Hauma and the women’s beach volleyball pair of Valisi Sakalia and Loluama Eti.
Hauma’s discus coach, Esau Teagai, believes that one of the many benefits of attending the Youth Olympic Games is to network with other NOCs, coaches and experts. “It’s another step for our country to develop in sports, especially athletics,” he explained.
“Being here at the Youth Olympic Games, we can experience new [coaching] techniques and socialise with others. We don’t have the coaching expertise specific to some sports, and that’s why we’re still in a developing phase.”
Tuvalu’s chef de mission, Viliamu Sekifu, agrees wholeheartedly. “The Youth Olympics has the top junior athletes in the world, so it’s good that we can come here and our athletes can see what is happening,” he said.
“We can compare it to our country and the gaps that we have, and that we need more time and funding to develop. If we work together with the government and the NOC to assign some money to our athletes, we hope we can achieve what top athletes are achieving today. We are humans, we can do everything, and we know that it’s only the lack of training facilities, opportunities and coaches [that is holding us back].”