Grace Christian Academy student-swimmers have appealed to authorities to keep the Kan Pacific Swimming Pool open.
“We need a place to practice and train. Please keep the pool open,” said GCA high school student and CNMI national swimmer Lennosuke Suzuki said in an interview with Saipan Tribune last Friday.
The clamor came on the heels of uncertainty over the Marpi pool, as the extension of the lease agreement between the government and Kan Pacific will be expiring at the end of this month. Kan Pacific has been operating and managing the only Olympic-sized pool in the CNMI for over four decades. Imperial Pacific International CNMI, LLC has received a notice of intent to award the new lease of all the facilities under Kan Pacific’s care. However, the final decision on the approval, denial, or amendment of the new lease agreement will come from the Legislature and time is not on Suzuki and company’s side.
Suzuki and the more than 30 GCA swimmers affiliated with Saipan Swim Club and Tsunami Swimming Center Saipan will start the 2018-2019 season late this month. One of the competitions this season is the All Schools Swimming Championship, which GCA ruled last year after sweeping the three divisions titles (elementary, middle, and high school).
“We have local and off-island tournaments to prepare for and it will be very difficult for us to find a suitable venue for practice. We may spend more time looking for a place to swim than do our training,” said Suzuki, who swims for SSC and just this summer represented the CNMI in the 12th Oceania Swimming Championships in Papua New Guinea and the Pan Pacific Swimming Championships 2018 in Japan.
“Closing the pool, whether indefinitely or final will definitely crush, not only us, current swimmers, but those who wish to swim in the future and reach their potentials. We’ve been doing our best to improve and become great swimmers so we will have opportunities to compete and represent our school and the CNMI. Closing the pool will take away those opportunities from us,” said Ashley Dangol, a Tsunami Saipan member who has been competing in off-island tournaments, too
Julia Jinang has been swimming for four years and is proud of the significant improvement she has made through those years.
“All the hard work that I and my fellow swimmers have put in will be wasted if we stop swimming. We’re learning skills and getting better, and then this (closure) may happen,” Jinang said.
Ashley’s brother Aasish and Gabriel Cortez, always look forward to swimming each day they finish their classes at GCA and they can’t help but feel disappointed, thinking they may not be able to do this after-school activity.
“We don’t want to stay at home after school and play video games or watch TV. We want to swim,” the younger Dangol said.
As for Jinie Thompson, closing the pool may mean they will be losing a family.
“At the pool, we are one big happy family of swimmers. We train together and help and encourage each other. Not having a pool will feel like our family is breaking apart,” she said.
Anthony Camacho-Deleon Guerrero, whose uncles Juan and Michael Camacho swam for the CNMI in the early 2000s, heard stories of his family members’ success at the Marpi pool.
“When they were telling me about how they enjoyed their time at the pool and those triumphs, I was encouraged to try swimming, too. The Kan Pacific pool is a place where they made a lot of memories and I wish to continue making memories for my family,” Deleon Guerrero said.
Meanwhile, GCA principal Beth Ann Nunez said she supports the students’ appeal to authorities and other concerned parties
“For this pool to be taken away from them is like taking away the opportunities to get them involved in a very positive activity. Through swimming, they become active and healthy and learn the value of teamwork, patience, discipline, and dedication. Swimming is something that I want them to continue doing as an after-school activity, as it has a lot of positive effects on them,” Nunez said.
Sports officials appeal to government
Northern Mariana Islands Swimming Federation, through its president John Hirsh, has sent a letter to Gov. Ralph DLG Torres, calling for the continued operation of the pool while negotiations for the new lease agreement of the property are ongoing.
Northern Marianas Sports Association president Michael White and 2021 Pacific Mini Games Oversight Committee chair Jerry Tan also signed the letter. Swimming is one of the sports that NMSA will be offering when Saipan hosts the Mini Games for the first time, three years from now. Then next year, Pacific Games Council officials are expected to have a site visit on the venues for the competition. Also next year, the NMISF is planning to send swimmers to Apia Samoa for the Pacific Games.
“It’s extremely important that the pool continues to be operational and open to our swim clubs and the public while ongoing lease negotiations are taking place. Our athletes need to continue to practice and prepare for upcoming local and international competitions,” Hirsh wrote in the letter. “Thousands of local swimmers have participated in our developmental and competitive swimming programs.”
Saipan Tribune has sought comments from the Office of the Governor about the letter, but has yet to respond, as the government, over the weekend, was busy monitoring and preparing for Typhoon Mangkhut.