By Bill Sakovich
PAGO PAGO, American Samoa, September 24. FROM time to time, devoted readers of Swimming World Magazine and SwimmingWorldMagazine.com submit their adventures in the global swimming community. Recently, Bill Sakovich spent some time in American Samoa to help its team prepare for the South Pacific Games. Here are some of his thoughts on the experience:
I recently had the opportunity to train six swimmers in Pago Pago, American Samoa, to prepare them for the 2007 South Pacific Games in neighboring Apia, Samoa, thanks to a FINA Development Grant to the American Samoan Swimming Association. A beautiful new Aquatics Center was recently built for the South Pacific Games by the Chinese government in Apia, including a 50-meter pool and diving well indoors, and another 50-meter outdoor pool with a children's pool.
American Samoa is a territory of the United States, a volcanic island in the South Pacific with a population of about 62,000 people. There are no swimming pools to train in, making it very challenging to do all of our training in Pago Pago Bay. Utulei Beach and Fagaalu Beach in Pago were popular beaches that were used daily by the public, and the team trained there daily for three weeks. Since time was short, I figured the best we could do would be to concentrate on technique. We did, and it paid off. Three teenage swimmers had only been swimming a few months, and three others about two years, two of whom were going to school in the U.S. While in Pago, I also worked with the junior team and the swim instructors/lifeguards.
For three weeks, we swam in the baywaters between two buoys about 20 meters off the beach, marking a course 40-50 meters. On many days, the water was not very clear and choppy, and it rained, but I did my best in making stroke corrections. The swimmers were great, a very committed group, rarely missing a practice. They accomplished things they had never done before, swimming distance and butterfly.
Several months ago, the three older swimmers participated in the World Championships swimming in three events each. This time, I said they would swim many more events. Each swimmer competed in six to ten events over the six-day competition schedule. I was only able to take accurate times upon arrival in Apia, a week before the competition, and from this time throughout the Games, each swim was a personal best, with drops of 4-5 seconds in the 50s and up to 20 seconds in the 200s. While speaking with other swimmers, the American Samoans were impressed with them stating they have been swimming for more than 10 years, while some of them had only been swimming for months.
From the excitement of the South Pacific Games and positive results, hopefully, more interest will be generated to build a swimming complex in Pago Pago. Swimmers who competed in the XIII South Pacific Games were Tony and Livingston Peters, Spencer Sword, Vincent Leatualevao, Rob Scanlan and Ching Maou Wei.
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