SWIMMERS MAKE BID FOR TOKYO 2020 OLYMPICS
By VILA DAY
Nuku’alofa – April 1, 2019: 8.35pm (Nuku’alofa Times): Two local swimmers are eyeing competing at the 2020 Olympic Games in Japan.
Against all odds, the two local swimmers, Finau Ohufi, 18 of Popua, Tongatapu, and Noelani Day, 15 of Holonga, Tongatapu, are recipients of the Olympic Solidarity Scholarships.
That will allow them to prepare for Japan.
Finau has also been awarded a one (1) year FINA Scholarship to train in Thailand at the FINA Training Center.
Both athletes are locally based in Tonga and train year-round in the ocean with zero facilities or a proper swimming pool.
They both were discovered swimming around the shipwreck at Pangaimotu Island, a ocean playground for our local Tongan kids.
Finau got his start at the Friendly Island Triathlon at age 10, winning his age group at the Weetbix Triathlon, and both kids started swimming with Malolo Swimming Club when Noelani was age 8.
Both young athletes got a boost, when through talent identification, were selected to attend a Triathlon Development Camp in New Zealand in 2013, competing in the NZ Secondary School Championships when Finau was 13 years old, and Noelani was 10 years old.
Both swimmers continued training hard and self-funding their own trips to attend swim meets overseas over the years, putting in hard work and managing to make selection to high level competitions such as the Commonwealth Youth Games in Bahamas in 2017, Asian Indoor & Martial Arts Games in Turkmenistan 2017, and FINA World Championships in 2018 in China.
Finau’s 2018 highlights also include making selection to represent Tonga at the Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast, Australia and the Youth Olympics in Buenos Aires, Argentina, where he continued to set new personal best times and establish some National Records.
In addition to pool swimming, Noelani’s 2018 highlights also include competing in the 22.3km Apolima Strait, the longest open water ocean swim in the Southern Hemisphere from Upolu to Savaii Island in Samoa.
She was also the youngest person in the World at age 14 (and first Tongan) to attempt and complete this monumental feat.
Both athletes are currently utilizing their scholarships to attend the FINA Training Center in Thanyapura, Phuket, Thailand.
Finau is based there for one year, and Noelani is currently there for one month, due to finishing up school commitments back home.
Both athletes will be attending the Thai National Swimming Championships next week, as a preparation competition for their lead up to the Pacific Games in Samoa.
Training in Tonga with zero facilities and no swimming pool has been extremely hard as both athletes constantly struggle to make selection against over-seas based swimmers that have full training facilities and access to high performance Coaching year-round.
In Tonga, local swimmers have access to none of this, which is why the scholarships have meant so much to both athletes in their preparation and bid for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
In addition to swimming and training full time and balancing school work, both athletes have also volunteered and taught Learn to Swim Classes over the past few years, passing on their knowledge and experience to other budding young athletes.
Both Finau and Noelani hope to become Swim Coaches in the future and plan to continue to help Tongan youth fulfill their aspirations and dreams against the difficult odds of training with zero facilities.
They hope that their story will help inspire other young local Tongans to realize anything is possible, with the support and love of our community, access to scholarships, and through sheer hard work and determination.
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