Discus thrower Karea Tioti is hoping to become Kiribati’s first-ever Paralympian by qualifying for this year’s Paralympic Games in Tokyo.
As reported by SBS News, the 50-year-old is among a number of athletes from seven Pacific nations aiming to secure Tokyo 2020 berths at the ongoing Queensland Athletics Championships in Brisbane.
Countries that do not make the cut are offered a limited number of wild-card entries.
"When they are looking at people with disability, they are always looked down [on]," Tioti was reported as saying by SBS News.
"When I get back to my country [this time], I’ll be a leader."
Tioti, a former fisherman, had his legs amputated in 1997 after an illness.
He is one of about 30 Para-athletes in Kiribati.
Kiribati was one of four countries to be granted full membership of the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) during its General Assembly in Bonn in October.
The Maldives, Malta and Paraguay were the others.
The ratification of the four nations brought the IPC's membership to 205, 182 of which are National Paralympic Committees (NPC).
Kiribati became the ninth member nation from the Oceania region.
"It is an exciting and very enjoyable moment to our NPC and also to our country, Kiribati, as a whole as this recognition by IPC will not only allow us to be recognised internationally, but also will open the bright future for our Para-athletes," NPC Kiribati President Tekoaua Tamaroa said at the time.
Athletes from Papua New Guinea, Tonga, Samoa, the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu were brought to Brisbane by the Oceania Paralympic Committee (OPC) after travel bans due to the coronavirus outbreak led to other international events being cancelled.
"This is the only opportunity we have for the athletes from the Oceania countries to obtain classification before Tokyo," Paul Bird, President of the OPC and a former Australian Paralympic swimmer, was reported as saying by SBS News.