Hometown kids Kensuke Kimura and Eli Ebenezer “Rezne” Wong bested 28 other competitors to finish tied in first place in the 4th Annual Saipan International Open Water Flipper Tournament held last Saturday.
The Tsunami Saipan Swimming Center duo crossed the beach finish line in 25:01. Thirteen-year-old Angel Marie Tan of the NMI topped the women's field in 27:06.
The 1.5-km swim around the award-winning island of Managaha delivered crystal clear waters and rainbows overhead for competitors.
Second in the men's division were Kaito Yanai (27:10), coming in third is Takumi Sugie (28:31), all of the Northern Mariana Islands. In second place for the women's division is Yumi Ishiodori (27:44), and in third place is Hatsumi Watanabe (29:38), all of Japan.
Finishing first in their age categories were Ryuto Yanai in the men's division (36:09), and Karen Ann Irinaka in the female division (59:05) for ages 10-and-under. For ages 11-12 in the male division went to Hiroto Yanai (29:10) and for ages 20-29 in the male division was Yutaka Miyashita (31:42), in the female division was YukoWatanabe (43:33) For ages 30-39 in the male division was Katsutoshi Sakuma (30:01) and in the female division was Makiko Morishita (43:32). And in the 40-49 age division for the men's went to TomiNishikido (29:55) and in the female division went to Ikue Takahashi (36:36). In the 50-59 age division went to Aiko Oshima (31:37). And for ages 60-and-up in the men's division went to Yasuhiro Kumikura (37:10).
“The flipper race was a success in that all winners finished safely and enjoyed themselves,” said MVA Community Projects manager Martin Duenas. “However, the primary goal of the event is to attract visitors, so our post-race evaluation will be a careful cost-benefit analysis and exploration of options to grow the event in consideration of holding it again next year.”
The oldest competitor, 65-year-old Toshiyuki Nakajima, crossed the finish line in 1:05:01 to a round of encouraging applause by other swimmers. The two youngest swimmers, 8-year-olds Ryuto Yanai and Juhn Tenorio of the Northern Marianas, registered at 36:09 and 38:28, respectively.
The race, organized by the Marianas Visitors Authority, requires swimmers to use wetsuits and fins. Snorkels and life jackets were also allowed. The race was followed by an island-style breakfast and awards ceremony. Competitors enjoyed free time on the island before departing late in the morning, just as the daily rush of visitors began to arrive.
Ai Shibata, a former Japanese Olympic gold medalist in the Athens 2004 Olympics, was on hand to encourage the swimmers.
The event is also sponsored by the Community Sports Center Foundation of Japan, Saipan International Open Water Flipper Tournament Executive Committees, local organizing committee, representatives from Japan and the CNMI, and Japan Saipan Travel Association, HANMI, DFS, Diving Equipments Makers, Food Companies, Insurance Companies, CHC Saipan, Department of Public Safety (Boating Division) and the Coastal Resources Management (CRM), Japan Marine Recreation Association, Japan Recreational Diving Industry Association, Japan Scuba Association, Japan Wetsuits Manufacturers Association, University of Live Sport Education Society, Northern Mariana Diving Operators Association (NMDOA), Japan Sport Diving Association, Japan Snorkeling Association, the Japan Diving Federation, Meiji (VAAM), Mask (GULL), Tabata (TUSA), Moby Dick Restaurant, B-ism, Delta Air Lines, Marine Diving Magazine, SAS, Scuba Pro Asia, Japan Aqua Lung, Saipan World Resort, Country House Restaurant, Kanoa Resort (formerly Saipan Grand Hotel), Tasi Tours & Transportation, Inc., Hafadai Beach Hotel, Japan Saipan Travel Association (JSTA), DFS, and the Commonwealth Healthcare Corp. (MVA)