Fiji's Taichi Vakasama eyes the big time

Tacihi Vakasama is a 19-year-old who has his life already planned, and he likes to work towards achieving them.  

The Japan-born is part of Fiji’s national swimming team that’s competing at the Aquatic Center in Faleata. 

He claimed gold during the men’s 200 meters breaststroke final yesterday, which took him four years to achieve after losing the same race in the 2015 Pacific Games in Papua New Guinea.

“This is the first time for me to raise Fiji’s flag up right in the middle. I was emotional and so hyped up. It was really nice watching our flag being raised,” Taichi said.

“Winning gold medal and sing your flag being raised up there gives you so much pride and I felt that last night.

“In the last 50 meters as well, I saw my parents and coaches’ faces at the wall and I kept swimming towards it and that pulled me from the front to take the lead as well.”

Tachi is from Vanuabalavu, Lau in Fiji with maternal links to Japan. 

He attributes his success to his parents, who have worked hard to fund his swimming, coach back in Fiji, and all those who have contributed to his achievements.

“This is the 11th year I have been swimming. I started in class 4, where I was doing back and freestyle but I came last in every school competition.

“I was recommended by one of the swimming coaches to do swimming; I was doing swimming for two years but never got fast, so I took a break one whole year in class 6. 

“Then I felt if I don’t swim, I won’t use that time to study, I was just lazing off, and so I thought I would do something more productive like swimming. And I think this is the right choice.”

The XVI Pacific Games is not his first time to compete in the regional event as he was also part of the 2015 Pacific Games in Papua New Guinea, but was ranked 7th in the men’s 200 meters breaststroke final.  

“Just to move up to that position took me four years, so every year one and half position. A really long way, but it pays,” Taichi said. 

“The last Pacific Games, the boys swimming team never won any medal at all. Last night we won gold and a bronze in our relay, so I think in one night we beat our last Pacific Games record and medal tally for the boys division.”

He is unsure if he will continue competitive swimming representing Fiji in the future as he’s also studying medicine.  

“I am studying medicine right now at the University of Fiji. From the 4th year of our studies, after we are employed into hospitals, and that’ll be from 2022, the year before the next before Pacific Games, so I think I won’t swim, I’ll take a rest. I will be training maybe three times a week, but not competitive swimming. 

“I actually plan out everything, no matter what it is. Since the last Pacific Games when I lost that race, I was making it my aim to get gold in that event this year, and main event last year. 

“I still have other events this week and I have got plans for that and also the next Pacific Games if I am able to take part.”

Tachi added he doesn’t feel intimidated by how old someone who he’s competing with is. 

“In that way I think opposite, how good it’ll be if a young swimmer takes over the older swimmer. 

“It was really nice to see our relay team competing really close to New Caledonia and Tahiti.” 

He said swimming is just as important as any other sport. 

“Swimming is really a minor sport in Fiji compared to athletics and rugby, which are quite big competitions, but swimming is really important in case of drowning incidents, keeping fit and healthy. Swimming is one of the sports that move all your muscles.” 

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