Last week's 9th Oceania Swimming Championships in New Caledonia served as a reunion for CNMI swimmer Rezne Wong and his first coach-Bill Sakovich.
Wong competed in six individual races at the Guy Verlaguet pool in Dumbéa with the now Hawaii-based Sakovich serving as his coach and helping him gain an entry in the Oceania competition.
“It was good to have Rezne competing under me again. Rezne's last swim for me with SSC (Saipan Swim Club) was in the 10-and-under in the Guam Swim League,” Sakovich said in an email to Saipan Tribune.
More than a decade ago, it was Sakovich who asked Wong if he would want to swim for Saipan Swim Club and train under the veteran coach. Wong, who called Sakovich “Mister” reluctantly accepted the offer and from there the then-hesitant swimmer turned into a CNMI record-holder, world championship veteran, Micronesian Games top athlete, and a University of Hawaii-Manoa mainstay.
“I was really impressed with Rezne's performance, he has come a long way while swimming for the University of Hawaii and he should do well in his final year of competition for UH-Manoa. Rezne is primarily a breaststroke and IMer for the UH team, but is also good all-around swimmer,” said Sakovich, who is now coaching the Waiakea High School.
According to Sakovich, Wong held his own against over 100 swimmers from the Pacific, including those from the tough New Zealand and Australian delegations that won majority of the medals in the four-day event.
“Rezne swam his best times this past March in the collegiate conference swimming championships, helping his team to a third place conference finish. At the Oceania champs last week, he competed in six races and made it to the finals in all his event-a great accomplishment for any swimmer,” the former SSC coach said.
Sakovich added that UH-Manoa assistant coach Jen Buffin was happy to see Wong in New Caledonia as the lone representative of the CNMI to the biennial tournament.
“As student at the University of Hawaii, Manoa campus, and one of the stars of the UH Swim Team, assistant coach, Jen Buffin was happy to see Rezne in Noumea as she was also the coach for the eight Hawaii swimmers competing for Hawaii,” Sakovich said.
Meanwhile, Sakovich thanked the Northern Marianas Swimming Federation, Tsunami Saipan Swimming Center, NMASA, and individual sponsors who made Wong's trip to New Caledonia possible.