American Samoan swimmer makes Olympics despite territory's lack of pool | Pacific Beat

American Samoan swimmer makes Olympics despite territory's lack of pool

American Samoan swimmer makes Olympics despite territory's lack of pool

Updated 31 July 2012, 11:46 AEST

In the most unlikely of success stories, swimmer Ching Maou Wei is preparing to compete for American Samoa in the London Games.

There is not a single swimming pool for training in American Samoa, but despite that Maou Wei is determined to make it to the semi-finals.

He spoke to Pacific Beat from his training base in Liverpool in the UK.

Presenter: Elise Kinsella

Speaker: Ching Maou Wei, swimmer, American Samoa's Olympic team


WEI: I would say very laidback, a bit chilly for me because my island is a bit warmer than here, but everybody's friendly and everything's provided for us.
KINSELLA: Are there many other athletes in Liverpool?
WEI: Yes there's a bunch of athletes from Oceania, so we have Fiji, we have Marshall Islands, we have Palau, we have Guam and Federated States of Micronesia.
KINSELLA: And Ching what do you hope to achieve at these Olympics?
WEI: I would say my personal best at time, a faster time definitely, and we'll see, medals are like a miracle so just personal best for now.
KINSELLA: Has competing in the Olympics always been a dream for you?
WEI: Yes definitely. I think for any swimmer this is the pinnacle your career to make it to the Olympics to represent your country is such a great honour.
KINSELLA: And talking swimming, when do you first start swimming?
WEI: I first started swimming in 2005. It was Mini SPG or Mini South Pacific Games in Palau.
KINSELLA: So you haven't been swimming since you were a very young kid, it's something that you've taken up a little bit later?
WEI: Yes that is due to the fact that in American Samoa we don't have a swimming pool, so most of the swimming I've done prior to that was mostly in the ocean. And then swimming instructor classes, I got involved in volunteering, teaching kids how to swim, and I got certified as a lifeguard all in the ocean.
KINSELLA: So how do you train if you don't have a pool at home?
WEI: In American Samoa we only have a community college so after my few years at community college I moved to Hawaii at UH Manoa and I've been attending UH Manoa as an undergraduate student in marine biology and I trained in between classes and worked as well.
KINSELLA: What's the major difference between swimming in the ocean and swimming in the pool?
WEI: Oh there's a major difference. The main difference as anybody would recognise is buoyancy. You've a lot more buoyancy in salt water than you have in fresh water. So that means if I do like a thousand metres swimming in the ocean, it'll be less strenuous on my body because I'm more buoyant. So you would have to work harder in the pool compared to when you're swimming in the ocean. 
KINSELLA: So has that taken a little bit of adjustment to training in a pool?
WEI: Oh definitely. Our first friendly swim meet was western Samoa, which western Samoa has an olympic size swimming pool. We went there and we did our normal workout and we couldn't even finish our five km workout just because our bodies were heavier and were more used to salt water. And then starting blocks and flip-turns, you can't do any of that in the ocean. So it was definitely a big change in the training.
KINSELLA: And what is it a typical training day for you now that you are in Hawaii?
WEI: Typical training day would be swimming from six to eight and then doing weight-lifting from eight to nine, and then I'd go to class. And then after that I'd swim again from two to four, and then I do paddling as well, so I'm also involved in outrigger, canoe paddling so I do that after swimming, and then I go home. I eat dinner, I do homework, and then it starts all over again. 
KINSELLA: So it's obviously a lot of hard work. What is it that you love about swimming that gets you out of bed before 5am every day?
WEI: I guess trying to push yourself, trying to get a faster time, and definitely beating the competition always has that nice feeling to it after you've swam really well. And then I've always grown up fishing, swimming and like I said before I do paddling, so I've grown up around the water, I love the water so it's something I love to do.
KINSELLA: And are you getting a lot of support from back home?
WEI: Oh definitely, I think some of my friends back home are more excited for me than I am.
KINSELLA: Are you going to take part in the opening ceremony?
WEI: Definitely, I think we have five other athletes so it's not a big group and we have a couple of coaches and delegate members from American Samoa. So I think we'll all be participating in the opening ceremony.
KINSELLA: And when you're walking out there in your country's uniform, what do you think will be going through your head?
WEI: I'm here to represent my country and being chosen to represent my country at a venue like this, such as the Olympics is a great honour.
KINSELLA: Do you hope that your performance at the Olympics will inspire other swimmers from American Samoa?
WEI: Definitely, I'm hoping to make swimming more popular and hopefully, well they're talking about building a pool, so hopefully more funding will come in and more people will get involved with swimming and develop a swimming program, because I think right now American Samoa does not have a stable swimming program just because there's no swimming pool. And for kids back home to know that it is possible for somebody to represent American Samoa in swimming, I think they will strive for swimming a lot harder and be inspired just to pick up swimming.

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