Karalo Maibuca will be the only participant for Tuvalu at the upcoming Paris Olympics. GETTY IMAGES

Karalo Maibuca will travel across the globe to compete for Tuvalu in the men's 100 metres at the upcoming Paris Olympic Games. The 25-year-old previously served as the flag-bearer during the Tokyo Games three years ago, a role he will once again undertake in the French capital as the sole representative from his country.

Tuvalu, with a population of approximately 11,000 people, consists of a series of low-lying islands and narrow atolls, some of which are only a few hundred meters wide. Due to limited space, Tuvalu does not have a proper athletics track. 

In the capital Funafuti, one of the scarce open areas is the airport, where the local community utilises the runway for recreational activities amid the limited number of international flights arriving and departing 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 first participated in the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Since then, the nation has sent a total of six athletes to compete in athletics and weightlifting, but has not yet won a medal. Melei mentioned that due to the absence of an athletics track, their top athletes must travel abroad to train and pursue their aspirations of Olympic competition.

Karalo Maibuca (R) will be the only athlete representing Tuvalu at upcoming Olympics in Paris. GETTY IMAGES
Karalo Maibuca (R) will be the only athlete representing Tuvalu at upcoming Olympics in Paris. GETTY IMAGES

"Without access to high-performance facilities, the challenge is to get our athletes up to that level," he said. Several members of the small Tuvalu team, who recently competed at the Oceania athletics championships, trained on the airfield.

Maibuca, currently studying and training in Fiji, will represent Tuvalu at his second Olympics after competing in the 100 metres three years ago in Tokyo. Despite finishing last in his heat during the preliminary rounds at Tokyo 2020, Maibuca set a new national record for Tuvalu.

In Paris, he aims to improve upon his Tokyo performance of 11.42 seconds. For perspective, Olympic champion Marcell Jacobs of Italy achieved a time of 9.80 seconds to claim gold. Maibuca relocated from Tuvalu to pursue studies and training at the University of the South Pacific in Suva, where he refines his Olympic preparations at the adjacent athletics stadium.

"Training has been good, all the preparation is on Paris, plenty of track work," he said. While unlikely to contend for a medal, Maibuca aims to surpass his own national record when he competes at the prestigious Stade de France before 80,000 spectators.

"That is my target at the moment, to get a new personal best in Paris," he concluded.