Gold rush for Tsunami Saipan

Swimming Center Tsunami Saipan members pose with the medals they won in the Inaugural Micronesian Swimming Championships held at the National Swimming Pool in Palau early this month. (Contributed Photo)

Swimming Center Tsunami Saipan members lived up to high expectations after bringing home 39 gold medals from the Inaugural Micronesian Swimming Championships held at the National Swimming Pool in Palau early this month.

All 10 Tsunami Saipan swimmers who suited up for Team CNMI won medals to reach the goal head coach Hiro Kimura set for the group. Kimura pressed his swimmers entered in the future division (U12) to rule majority of their events, while those racing in the over 13 (star division) were expected to notch a couple of gold medals, too.

Isaiah Aleksenko led Tsunami Saipan’s gold rush in Palau after collecting 13 gold medals (including relay races) in the U12 age group. Ashley Dangol, who also competed in the U12 division, earned 12 gold medals (including relay), while Aika Watanabe bagged nine golds (including relay) and three silvers in the over 13 division.

“Isaiah’s result times were very high level, especially in the 400m freestyle, where his result was faster than the bronze medalist in the star division. Ashley never lost an event and it was really amazing. Aika also had an outstanding performance,” Kimura said.

Also delivering for Tsunami Saipan were Shoko Litulumar and Xans Xu, who earned eight gold medals apiece and three silvers each in the U12 races, while Juhn Tenorio brought home four golds, four silvers, and one bronze in the over 13 events. Rounding out Tsunami Saipan’s medal winners were Nelson Batallones (one gold), Kean Pajarillaga (one gold, seven silvers, and two bronzes), Asaka Litulumar (three silvers and two bronzes), and Joseph Zhang (one bronze).

“Shoko and Hans did not lose to swimmers from other countries, only to their teammates. Nelson is the top swimmer in the 200m butterfly, while Juhn is among the top sprinters in Micronesia, competing against Noel Keane and Jericho Maido of Palau and Kahleo Kihleng of Pohnpei. Joseph went to the finals of all breaststroke events and I am confident he will be stronger in upcoming competitions, while Asaka, the youngest in the star division, also has a lot of promise,” the Tsunami Saipan head coach said.

“As for Kean, he was like the rising star at this meet. Not so many people from Micronesia know him because Kean has not won any medal/trophy in Saipan International Meet or Guam Championships. However, he had a great race with Isaiah and Hans in Palau and this time Micronesian swimmers and coaches recognized him,” Kimura said.

Meanwhile, Tsunami Saipan thanked Palau and the Palau Swimming Association for their hospitality and Pacific Islands Club Saipan, Hyatt Regency Saipan and Dolphin Club Saipan for supporting the team’s training sessions.

“PIC provides us with a daily practice venue after the Marpi pool closure, while Hyatt also accommodated us after Super Typhoon Yutu. Dolphin Club Saipan also helped us in the open water swim. Thank you very much. Without your cooperation and support, we could not win in Palau,” Kimura said. “Thank you, too to Billy Brown, the head coach of Palau National Swimming Team and the meet director of this meet. Billy always thinks of Micronesian swimming—the Micronesian Swimming Championships is his idea.”

Roselyn Monroyo | Reporter
Roselyn Monroyo is the sports reporter of Saipan Tribune. She has been covering sports competitions for more than two decades. She is a basketball fan and learned to write baseball and football stories when she came to Saipan in 2005.

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