Like their older counterparts, Tsunami Saipan Swimming Center younger members are also eager to represent the CNMI in off-island competitions.
With that in mind, Tsunami Saipan coach Hiroyuki Kimura has embarked on the Dream Kids Project 2023 to make this happen.
“I’m very proud of them because they keep working hard to practice swimming even if they can’t swim in any official meet for a long time,” he said alluding to the club’s 11-and-under swimmers.
The many-time CNMI national swimming coach hopes that 2023 will be the year that all Tsunami Saipan swimmers, including the young ones, will finally experience competition outside of Saipan.
“Many countries in the world are finally opening and we have opportunities to participate in other off-island swim meets. The priority is experience for our next generation of swimmers in the CNMI. Lack of experience leads to a huge problem for young swimmers,” he said.
Locally, Tsunami Saipan is looking to prepare the next generation of CNMI swimmers by holding competitions and with that in mind, Kimura said the club will hold unofficial meets with a lot more frequency this year.
“Tsunami Saipan has a plan to hold the unofficial swim meet monthly this year. It is so far from an official meet, but we will try to hold it as close to an official meet as possible. I think young swimmers can experience the tension of the race and learn the rules.”
Kimura believes meets—unofficial or not—are the best training ground for young swimmers to develop discipline and experience to prepare them for future off-island competition.
“Importantly, as long as it’s a competition, there are rules. We need to make swimmers understand the reality that if they don’t follow the rules, they will be disqualified even if they swim. Swimming rules are quite detailed and strict. If we don’t teach it to the new generation, we won’t be able to go to any international competition. We hope 2023 is the year when a lot of kids’ dreams come true,” he said.
Tsunami Saipan’s up-and-coming swimmers share Kimura’s enthusiasm that they will finally be able to spread their wings beyond the CNMI this year.
“I will be very happy if my coach selects me, but nervous at the same time. I will be very proud to represent my club. I would love to go to Guam or other countries. It would be nice to swim with other kids that I don’t know. It would make me happy to compete and will make me know how much I improved in my swimming skills,” said Gwen Retardo, Tsunami Saipan’s top 8-and-under girls swimmer who goes to Grace Christian Academy.
Tsunami Saipan’s top 8-and-under boys swimmer Leo Li of Garapan Elementary School is as excited as Retardo.
“I’m happy to be a member of the team. I want to see other places in the world and I keep swimming because I love swimming,” he said.
Catalina Frink, the club’s best 10-and-under girls swimmer and top ranked in the butterfly and backstroke events, said it will be a privilege to don the CNMI colors in off-island meets.
“I will be shocked and really happy that if ever I’ll be chosen to represent the CNMI in an off-island meet. Going to another country is a really big achievement. Swimming is my favorite sport. I have been swimming since I was 6. It taught me to be tough, brave, and hardworking,” said the GCA student.
Sera Guerrero, a student from Mt. Carmel School and is a top ranked 9-and-under swimmer, said she will definitely make sure to make her home islands proud if ever she goes off to compete off-island.
“I’m so excited but also nervous if I will be able to participate in an off-island meet. I do want to compete and make Tsunami Saipan proud. Swimming is very fun, keeps me strong. and healthy but also challenging,” she said.
Aileen Kim, who is pound for pound the strongest swimmer of her age group, said she can’t wait to compete in an off-island meet like her contemporaries.
“I will be nervous if I go to a Guam meet because that means I am a representative of the CNMI. But I will feel very good and be proud of myself. Swimming makes me healthy and gives me more confidence,” she said.