Carrying the nation's hopes: Meet the weightlifter who is the ONLY Olympics athlete from his tiny country

The entire nation of Nauru measures a minuscule 8.1 square miles, the excited 9,000 population is hoping to win the title

ONLY 9,000 people live in the Republic of Nauru, a tiny Pacific island where bingo night in a rundown hall is the biggest social extravaganza of the week. But while the entire nation measures a minuscule 8.1 square miles, the excited population is hoping to win a massive title at the Olympics. When it comes to having the hopes of your compatriots on your shoulders, weightlifter Itte Detenamo really raises the bar. Itte, 25, will be Nauru’s only competitor at the Games. And it’s the only one-man team. The one advantage of being all on his own is that there has been no debate about who carries the flag at the opening ceremony. So there will be no mistaking Itte when he takes that proud walk at the Olympic Stadium on July 27. Then again, at 5ft 9in and almost 25 stone, he would stand out from the crowd anyway. And he’s not just coming to make up the numbers. He has already smashed the Commonwealth record in his weight category and is being tipped for an Olympic medal. It would make him the biggest hero in the history of the world’s smallest island nation, which is situated in the middle of the Pacific around 2,500 miles north east of Australia. Speaking from his training base in New Caledonia, in the South Pacific, Itte said: “My preparation is going well and I am really looking forward to London. “I have never been to England, only Paris, but I have heard so much about it. It is a beautiful country and I want to go sightseeing after the Games. “It is funny being a one-man team. There is a lot of pressure because I am carrying the hopes of all the people back home. “I have eight sisters and one brother, and they will be watching with my mum, Viola, listening on radio and following the competition via email. They will want to know everything. “My dad, Vinson, is president of the Commonwealth Weightlifting Association so I hope he will be there in London with me. "He is the reason I got into weightlifting. I have been working all through the years for the Olympics. "I know I have to get it right on that one day, and that is what I set out to do. “I am from one of the smallest islands on the planet against the strongest men in the world. "But I believe I can do well. You have to say to yourself ‘anything is possible’.” Nauru gained independence in 1968 but after being hugely wealthy in the 1970s – thanks to the island’s natural resource, phosphate – the economy collapsed in the 90s. There is now 90% unemployment and the highest concentration of obese people in the world. But Itte is bringing pride back to the nation. His legendary coach, Paul Coffa, said: “Itte is an ­incredible young man. "He is up against some of the biggest nations in weightlifting, Iran, Russia and China with its billion-strong population, and yet he is ranked seventh in the world from an island with less than 10,000 people. "Iran wants to have the strongest man in the world because that is important to their culture. “They are investing millions to win the gold in the super heavyweight. “But the Pacific nations’ record is an incredible story. Their build, with strong shoulders and legs, means they have tremendous potential in weightlifting and rugby. "Itte was just eight stone when he started at nine years old. Now he is the strongest man in the Commonwealth.” Itte got involved in the sport through his older sister and dad Vinson, Nauru’s former finance minister. Ex-President Marcus Stephen is the nation’s most successful ever athlete, a weightlifter who competed at the Atlanta Olympics in 1996 and Sydney in 2000. He won seven gold and five silver medals at Commonwealth Games. His success meant weightlifting become Nauru’s favourite sport. When Itte was 10, his dad took him to a gym to get tips from the former president. Now, Itte trains for six hours a day. And with the help of fiancée Christiane, 24, who is a civil servant, he follows a special diet rich in carbohydrates. The hard work has clearly paid off. He competed at the Olympics in Athens in 2004 and Beijing in 2008. And he has won bronze and silver medals at the Commonwealth Games. Two years ago he rubbed shoulders with Hollywood heavyweights Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone at an event in the US. Itte is now ready to write the script at the Olympics this summer so he can take a medal and a gigantic smile back to the tiny island of Nauru.