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Track-less Tuvalu sends one-man team to Paris Olympics

WELLINGTON: Athletes on Tuvalu train on the airport runway in the absence of a running track, but the tiny Pacific nation will still manage to send a one-man sprint team to the Paris Olympics.

Karalo Maibuca will jet across the world to race for Tuvalu in the men's 100m at next month's Games.

The 25-year-old was flag-bearer three years ago in Tokyo, role he will reprise in the French capital - he is his country's sole representative.

Tuvalu has a population of around 11,000 and is made up of a string of low-lying islands and narrow atolls, some of which are just a few hundred metres wide.

With space at a premium, Tuvalu doesn't have a proper running track.

One of the few open spaces in the capital Funafuti is the airport, where the public use the runway for recreation in between the handful of international flights which come and go each week.

"It's true we don't have any track here for field events. If people come and train here, they run on the airfield," Melei Melei, secretary general of Tuvalu's Olympic committee, told AFP.

Tuvalu made its Olympic debut in 2008 in Beijing. It has so far sent six competitors in all, in athletics and weightlifting, but has yet to scoop a medal.

Melei said that without an athletics track, their best sportsmen and women have to go overseas to train and nurture their dreams of competing at the Olympics.

"Without access to high-performance facilities, the challenge is to get our athletes up to that level," he said.

Many of the small Tuvalu team that competed at the Oceania athletics championships earlier this month trained on the airfield.

Maibuca, who studies and trains in Fiji, will represent Tuvalu at his second Olympics, having raced in the 100m three years ago in Tokyo.

He failed to progress past