The Tongan swimming team is in Samoa to embark on the notorious Apolima Strait crossing this week.
As Tonga is still without a pool, the team mainly trains in open water in preparation for their Savaii swim this week.
“Typically we meet up with Tonga at the Fiji Nationals each year. This was the first time we could host some of their team and compete in pool events over the weekend,” said Suzie Schuster, National Swim Coach for Samoa.
There were 20 swimmers in all, competing for official times to create new personal best times, break national records and compete for a position on the Commonwealth Youth Team.
Some new records were set at this event.
Sitivi Sooaemalelagi dominated in the 50m and 100m fly events, even breaking the 16 year old age group National record in the 100m fly coming in on a 1:05.66. Other new records for the 100m backstroke were established with 11 year old Urlin Mulitalo and nine year old Palepua Afoa in his first ever swim meet, creating a new record for the 100m backstroke in the 9 year old male division.
First time swimmers who are graduating into the development squad had impressive races with anticipation of competing in Fiji in June.
Other standout races were the Schuster duo, 16 year old Matthew, and 14 year old Andrea.
Matthew excelled in the backstroke event and breaststroke events, coming in a solid 11 seconds ahead of the pack in the 100m backstroke although just missing out on a new national record.
Andrea continued to prove her seeding in the top tier, competing with all males who were 16 - 21 years of age pulling in the top 5 in the overall competition.
“I wanted to push myself, so agreed to swim against the open men’s division.
I needed to get better times though I didn’t hit the free and fly times that I wanted,” said Andrea Schuster.
The surprise swimmer of the meet was 13 year old Gideon Mulitalo, who rose to the top 8 of all his events.
“Gideon was slated for heat 2, but proved his speed in the water by finishing in the top 8.
He is coming off an injury, so it will be great to see what else he can achieve when he is fully recovered,” said Schuster. The coach wasn’t the only one to notice Mulitalo as a few spectators commented on his pull, his reach and the power he showed in the water.
Le Amosa Swim Club came with five committed swimmers who have all swum for the Samoa Development squad during their career.
They pulled in with considerable times and gave the other clubs a run for their money.
Teofilo Molioo, the most seasoned swimmer in the club, ranked in the top 5 for all of his selected events.
The Tongan Team Manager, Vila Day, was impressed with the afternoon.
“We are so thankful to the swim clubs and the Samoa Swimming Federation for this event. We were able to get some official times for our swimmers which is key to helping them improve and be considered for team selection in the upcoming events this year.”
The final results for the event had the Tanifa O Le Vai swim club coming in first with 591 points, Team Tonga taking second place with 276 points and Le Amosa earning third with 180 points. The day was rounded off with a pizza party and a movie - which just may have been the highlight of the competition.
Another swim meet will be held in late June for all those interested in participating.
As for the international circuit, the next events Samoa swimmers are focused on are the Fiji Long Course Age Nationals at the end of June, the Commonwealth Youth Games in Bahamas in July and the FINA World Long Course Championships in Budapest in July.