Swimmers off to World Champs in Budapest


From left, Taiyu Akimaru, coach Richard Sikkel, Maria Batallones, Jinie Thompson, and assistant coach Ally Pourmonir will represent the CNMI in the 2022 FINA World Championship in Budapest, Hungary. Juhn Tenorio, currently training in Japan, will meet up with them in Korea.(CONTRIBUTED PHOTO)

The CNMI National Swimming Team for the 2022 FINA World Championship left for Budapest, Hungary yesterday.
Taiyu Akimaru, Maria Batallones, and Jinie Thompson will meet up with the fourth member of the team, Juhn Tenorio, in Korea where they will catch a connecting flight to Doha, Qatar before proceeding to Budapest for the  FINA World Championship set from June 18 to July 3.

National coach Richard Sikkel will leave Saipan today and will rendezvous with the team, who left with assistant coach Ally Pourmonir.

Sikkel said the team is in good shape and are in good spirits before their flight to Budapest.

“Morale is great. Everyone is excited to compete in Budapest. It will be the first time in a long time since any of the swimmers has been in a 50m pool. I am expecting personal bests in most if not all events and we might get a good look at an age group record or two, maybe even a national record,” he said.

As far as events are concerned, Tenorio will swim the 50m and 100m backstroke, Akimaru the 50m butterfly and 50m freestyle, Batallones the 50m and 100m breaststroke, and Thompson the 50m and 100m freestyle. In addition, all four will swim the 4x100m freestyle and 4x100m mixed medley.

Tenorio said he’s currently in Japan for training but will meet his teammates in Korea.

“I feel great and I hope the team will perform as good as we did last time. I am confident that I will come back with good results!”

Akimaru said he’s thrilled to compete in his first World Championships in Budapest. 

“I feel a little bit nervous leaving today but still feel like it will be a very good experience for me. I do not know how I will do in the race but I will just try my best.”

He added that he would’ve liked more time to train for the World Championships.

“But we worked on what we can and to have the best performance we can have!”

For Batallones, who had been training five times a week, competing in Budapest has brought some excitement and a bit of anxiety. 

“I have very mixed emotions. Mostly excited and ready. I expect to have good results. I am super excited since this is my first World Champs. I’m sure my team and I will do great. The training leading to World Champs of course was not easy. Although it wasn’t easy, I am sure it’s worth doing. Now it is the time to put all my hard work to use. I can’t wait to meet new people from around the world, and also make the CNMI proud.”

Like her teammate Batallones, Thompson admitted that nerves are definitely present as the reality of competing at the World Championships have finally sunk in.

“However I am mostly eager to race. It is an incredible experience we are about to experience and I’m utterly grateful that I had been given this opportunity to swim for the CNMI with my teammates. I believe that there is always room for improvements when we get back but for now, I will do my best to give my absolute all with every event I dive into. Though we are a tiny island compared to the big countries we are competing against, island pride will be shown through our personal times and the effort we put in our swims to make the CNMI proud!”

Thompson added they will compete in the highest level of the sport sans an Olympic-size pool to train in.

“Our training process was not ideal as we do not have access to a pool everyday of the week. However, our coach had worked to get us access to swim at [Pacific Islands Club] twice a week to practice our sprints, turns, and stroke work. Our coach really pushed us to our limits near the end of our practices and never missed a day during our training process to make sure he is by our side correcting our stroke, timing our swims, and making sure we are not goofing around too much!” she said.

Mark Rabago | Associate Editor
Mark Rabago is the Associate Editor of Saipan Tribune. Contact him at Mark_Rabago@saipantribune.com

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