Lataisi Mwea is from Tarawa, one of the many atolls that make up the Gilbert Islands, which are a part of the nation of Kiribati.
Like most countries in the world, Kiribati is no stranger to climate change. In fact, it is one of the many Pacific Island countries that are extremely vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.
Located in the Central Pacific Ocean, approximately 17,000 kilometres west of Colombia and over 8,200 kilometres east of Indonesia, Kiribati has a population of approximately 116,000 people and is the only nation in the world that is situated in all four hemispheres. One of whom is the focus of this interview.
Lataisi is a high jumper and has been competing at an elite level to represent his country in several professional athletics competitions. He is currently in Australia, training as part of the Oceanic Athletics Association, and recently sat down to chat with us.
Zushan Hashmi: Let’s start off with life in Kiribati, what is it like living in the island nation?
Lataisi Mwea: Well, in the islands, life is very simple. Life is good as long as there’s food, you have your family and your friends. We may not have a lot, but we get by and make do with what we have and that keeps us happy.
How are sports in Kiribati being impacted by climate change?
With climate change, our situation is getting worse. Our water supply will become limited, our diet will lack the necessary requirements as we will not be able to grow our crops anymore, we won’t be able to train with the burning heat of the sun or even compete to see how much we have improved on the islands. And a lot of people will start falling ill. Climate change could seriously impact our performances as athletes, and more so on the islands.
How did you get into High jumping?
I participated in a school competition on the islands, where I was first introduced to high jumping. It was a big event because every student on the island who attended a high school got to represent their school.
Initially, it was a hobby, but then I realized I wanted to keep doing it, and here I am now.
What have been some of the challenges for you as an athlete?
The main challenge that I have faced is training without the proper equipment. You see, proper training equipment helps you a lot. Also, without qualified coaches who are willing to commit to doing their jobs for us, it’s quite hard. We have to learn to be independent by developing and following our own training routines, which is tough.
What are the most popular sports in Kiribati?
The most popular sports in Kiribati is by far, football (soccer).
What do you say to aspiring young athletes from Kiribati who want to take up an athletics sport, like High jumping?
To all my people back home, talent is a gift. Don’t just bury it, instead let it grow. It is not easy to marry your passion I mean, right now I miss home. I miss my family so much but I try to remember that I’m doing this for myself, for them and for my country.
It is not easy but what purpose would you have in life if you’re just living for the sake of living. If you’re driven towards High Jumping or other sports then do it. Train hard and keep your focus.
Also, remember that not everything is always smooth sailing but don’t let that discourage you. Let failure be your motivation and remember that you’re a Child of God. Let Him help you as well.
How has the training with the Oceania Athletics Association helped you?
The training in the Oceania Athletics Association has helped me a lot, particularly with developing new techniques, conducting new forms of training for speed, strength and explosiveness.
Will you be competing in any major events soon?
Yep! I’m competing in the Micronesian Championships!
This article is a part of a series on sports and climate change in the Pacific Islands. You can read the introductory article here.