Zarinae Sapong will forever treasure the chance to compete in the 16th International Association of Athletics Federations World Championships in London, United Kingdom earlier this month.
After all, she had the opportunity to see a lot of superstars in athletics especially United States sprinter Allyson Felix, whom she is a big fan of. An added bonus is when she posted a new personal best time in the 100m run.
“This is my first time participating in the World Championships. I’ve competed in the World Indoor Championships, the World Junior Championships, and the World Youth Championships in the past,” said Sapong in an interview by Saipan Tribune.
“Running in the world stage is a huge honor. I get to meet new athletes and coaches, and it gives me the chance to observe the different routines and drills that each athlete goes through before their event.”
The fan girl in her came out when she saw her idol, Felix, the three-time 200m run world champion and six-time Olympic gold medalist. “Yes, seeing the top athletes perform is always an awesome experience like when I witnessed Usain Bolt’s last few races.”
“A lot of the people I met were the top athletes of their country and they were very kind. I’m also a fan of many runners but Allyson Felix is one of my favorites. I think I was most overwhelmed when I saw her enter the warm up track with Team USA,” Sapong said.
However, getting a new PBT served as the highlight of her London trip. Sapong ran in Heat 6 at the London Olympic Stadium and clocked 13.29 seconds, shaving off 0.06 milliseconds off her previous time of 13.35 in winning gold in the 2016 Micronesian Athletics Championships in Pohnpei.
“I feel that I performed well in London. I’m happy that I set a new [PBT]. I know there are new things that I have added in my routine and with more training, I hope to work through the kinks and produce better times,” said the 5’2” Sapong.
She followed to the letter what she and Northern Marianas Athletics development officer Elias Rangamar had done in their preparation for the IAAF World Championships. “Before the race I was thinking about the phases I go through in the run from the beginning to the end.”
“For example, my take off has changed since I competed in [the Oceania Area Championships] in Fiji so I was just repeating what I needed to do on the starting blocks. In the middle of the run, I got my breathing right, stayed relaxed, and pumped my arms. I needed to focus so I could maintain my speed at that point of the race.”
Breathing heavily, moments after she crossed the finish line, Sapong anxiously looked at the giant monitor at the stadium to check on her time. “I was really eager to see my time after I crossed the finish line. I was ecstatic when I saw that I broke my own [PBT].”
“After my previous performance in Fiji, I was not expecting a new [PBT]. I was just hoping to match my [PBT]. It was really an amazing feeling to have beaten it.”
Despite running against some of the world’s top athletes, Sapong just focused and tried not to be intimidated by their presence. “I get nervous when it comes to my performance. But I’m more focused in ensuring I run the race as best as I can.”
“Not so much to think that I have the world’s superstars next to me. When it comes to being with the world’s stars, I’m more than excited than nervous,” she added.
She plans to resume her training as soon as she has settled her class schedules at the Northern Marianas College to prepare for the Pacific Mini Games in Vanuatu in December, other future Oceania tournaments, and the regional Micronesian Games in Yap state but most especially next year’s MAC that will be hosted by Saipan.
Being the reigning 100m and 200m champion in the MAC, with the latter she holds the games record of 27.87 seconds, makes her a marked person. Would she give in to pressure?
“Less pressure, but more motivation. I try not to overwhelm myself on what others expect of me but more so on what I am doing to get my goals. I hope to continue to perform better but I can only get they by continuing to train hard,” Sapong ended.