PEARL CITY (KHNL) - It's the 8th smallest nation in the world according to the United Nations, but the Marshall Islands will still compete in the summer games.
We talk to a Marshallese athlete who lives and trains right here in Honolulu.
His name is Anju Jason, and he's one of five athletes from the Marshall Islands who qualified for this year's games in Beijing.
It's also the first time his island nation of 65,000 will be represented in the world wide competition, making him an Olympic pioneer for his people.
It's the opportunity of a lifetime for Anju Jason and his country.
"It was exciting, first time I found out we could actually qualify for the Olympics, and when I did qualify, it was even more. It was huge," said Anju.
Anju won his division at the qualifying tournament in New Caledonia last December, making him one of the first Olympians to come out of the Marshall Islands.
"This is a very small country that's never been to this huge big stage ever, so just to be able to represent them for the first time ever, it's very, uh, all I can say is I'm speechless."
He left the islands 14 years ago as a young boy and has lived here in Hawaii ever since. But he's kept his citizenship in the Marshall Islands, and hopes his actions will inspire future generations.
"I hope this will inspire other Marshallese to get out and do stuff, like, if you want to be in a sport, just try your best to be on the top and strive for your goal."
"If they can see a fellow Marshallese competing on an international scale, and having any kind of success that can motivate a lot of young Marshallese."
Anju competes in Taekwondo on the 22nd, and though his chances of medalling are slim, just being there and representing his people is significant.
"All these years I've been watching the Olympics from the TV, and just being there, and being watched from the TV is pretty good, and just walking in there and seeing all the other countries, everybody in the stands, that will be very exciting."
"I can only imagine being from such a small country, it's hard seeing yourself competing against the entire world. But going to the Olympics, Anju is going to be representing the Marshallese people," said Brian McCutcheon, Marshallese head Taekwondo coach.
Which, in the end, is the most important thing.
Coach McCutcheon says the kids in the Marshall Islands have sent Anju pictures and letters wishing him luck, and saying he really is a hero to them.
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