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 100 metres 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 the preliminary heats after finishing last in his race, but still managed to set a new national record for Tuvalu.

In Paris he hopes to better his Tokyo time of 11.42 seconds. For comparison, Olympic champion Marcell Jacobs of Italy clocked 9.80 to win gold.

Maibuca left Tuvalu to study and train at the University of the South Pacific in Suva, where he fine-tunes his preparations for the Olympics at the neighbouring athletics stadium.

“Training has been good, all the preparation is on Paris, plenty of track work,” he said.

He won’t get close to a medal, but Maibuca wants to lower his own national record when he runs at the imposing Stade de France in front of 80,000 spectators.

“That is my target at the moment, to get a new personal best in Paris,” he said.