Jinnosuke Suzuki, Juhn Tenorio, and sisters Asaka and Shoko Litulumar will represent the CNMI in the 2021 FINA World Championships in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates from Dec. 16 to 21.
The Swimming Center Tsunami Saipan bets formalized their selections after topping anew Saipan Swim Club’s Triple Crown Open Water Swim Series last Saturday, Sept. 25, in the waters off Civic Center Beach in Susupe. The Northern Mariana Islands Swimming Federation-sanctioned race served as the final qualifier for the World Championships. The first two qualifiers were held last July 10 and 24.
Suzuki topped the final men’s qualifier with a time of 12:27.45. He was followed by Tenorio in 12:55.59. SSC’s Taiyo Akimaru and Jakey Deleon Guerrero finished third and fourth with times of 13:50.63 and 14:33.10, respectively.
The qualifiers’ top dog said he’s looking forward to represent the CNMI in the World Championships in Abu Dhabi.
“I am glad that I was able to place first in the qualifiers and could hopefully swim in the World Championships in Abu Dhabi. My goal is to get personal best times and break a record,” he said.
Tenorio, for his part, seconded Suzuki’s desire to bring honor to their home islands by taking part anew in the international competition.
“I am very happy to represent our island once again. I will continue to work hard and show my best performance on race day.”
Asaka Litulumar, meanwhile, was the first to touch the flag in the final women’s qualifier with a time of 14:44.28. Shoko Litulumar was not far back at 14:45.09, while SSC’s Jinie Thompson was third in 15:00.63. SSC’s Savita Sikkel came in fourth at 15:33.49.
The elder Litulumar said out of all the three races she swam, last Saturday’s was the most difficult because she and her sister were racing side by side the whole time.
“I’ve never felt more scared in my life, but this was a great race. I’m excited to go to the World Championships in Abu Dhabi as a national representative for the CNMI. Great job to all the participants and volunteers for their hard work. I would like to thank 500 Sails for letting us race at Guma Sakman. I would also like to thank my parents and coach for always supporting me and giving me great advice to become a faster swimmer,” she said.
Shoko, for her part, admitted experiencing nerves before the race.
“Something deep inside me was telling me that ‘I will lose I can’t do it, it’s too long, they’re going to beat me, they’re too fast.’ I was very negative, hiding it with a smile and fake confidence,” she said.
In the end, however, once she was in the water, her competitiveness kicked in.
“But they all disappeared once I started swimming. I knew what I had to do, what I must do, and I did it without fail, which led me to win second right behind my sister. Asaka. I was so happy I won and I screamed out in joy, but that wasn’t the end. My journey starts from here, as a swimmer representing CNMI at the World Championships in Abu Dhabi. I have set a clear goal in mind, never give up, and give it my 200 percent all during practice even if it means I would have to overwork myself because hard work pays off. During the meet at Abu Dhabi, my goal is to get best times in all events that I will swim. I am looking forward to find out how this journey will unfold,” she added.
Tsunami Saipan coach Hiro Kimura said seeing her Top 4 swimmers win the qualifiers was bittersweet.
“Only two swimmers each gender from the team could participate in this selection race. Our team has more than two swimmers who have times worthy to become a national representative. No matter who participated, they would get good time and win the race. That’s why it was really hard for me as a coach to choose two only of them for team representative. I know swimmers who weren’t chosen by me for this selection race were really sad,” he said.
That’s why it’s Kimura’s sincere belief that Suzuki, Tenorio, and the Litulumar sisters swam with the hearts of their teammates.
“I believe the fact that the four swimmers won exactly because of their gratitude to their teammates. The swimmers who lost the team selection cheered very hard for our team representatives. As a coach, I’ve never been so happy. To me, all Tsunami swimmers are my pride. Not only the winners of the qualifying race,” he said.