Day 2 of The 16th FINA World Championships

Tuesday, August 04, 2015

Another busy day in the pool at Kazan Arena for the Pacific islands. Two more records fell in the morning heats as five nations and seven swimmers performed on the world stage. There were creditable performances from others following on from the recent Pacific Games, as the swimmers asked their muscles to go for one more time in their chase to lower personal bests and national records.


Notable was the debut at the World Championships for Temaruatu Strickland of the Cook Islands.  The Men’s 100m Backstroke was Temaruata Strickland’s first race at a World Championship long course, having previously competed in the short course in Doha. The sixteen-year-old, New Zealand resident finished in a time of 1 minute 10:89 seconds, setting a new personal best (PB). Despite this, Strickland wasn’t satisfied.


“The race didn’t go as planned,” he said in between deep breaths. “I died out too early...I think I went out too fast in the first 50m but couldn’t hold it for the second 50m”. It was clear, though, that he wanted to improve upon this PB and wouldn’t accept the performance.  I’ll work on the start and hopefully cut off a second or half a second off the time”.


Next broadest smile in the Media Mixed Zone belonged to Evelina Afoa of Samoa. Evelina had just competed in the Women’s 100m Backstroke clocking a time of 1 minute 08.43 seconds.

The smile was justified as she had just broken her personal best and set a new national record for Samoa. It also clearly meant so much more to a teenager whose love of representing Samoa gives her “the opportunity to represent who I am.”


Evelina went on to explain to us that, “ I just felt really fast and light in the water, my finish was a bit slow but I’m still happy with how I went.” She went on to explain how she is feeling more comfortable in the major event environment, having been a ‘first timer’ at Barcelona in 2013.


“I’d say I’m less nervous this time around, I’m looking at it as a much more fun thing rather than putting myself under pressure by telling myself I have to be serious. I’m just relaxed ahead of the race, and it went well for me so I’m happy.”


The schedule is not slowing down for Papua New Guinea’s Ryan Pini at these championships. It’s been a busy few months for the Pacific islands’ most successful swimmer, with the FINA World Championships coming at the end of a long run including the Australian Championships and Pacific Games.


After completing his second race in as many days, the 100m Backstroke; Ryan 33, reflected on the effects of his recent schedule,


“ It’s definitely a lot harder to back up these days and I’m requiring a lot more rest. I’ve had a few injuries this last week or two which has put a damper on things but considering everything that has happened over the last three or four months then I’m doing pretty well.”


Ryan came home in the two-length event in a satisfactory time of 56.39 seconds. Having turned in 3rd place in 27.09 seconds, he just couldn’t hold on over the final 50m and finished 4th in his heat and 41st in the world.


Epitomising the competitive nature of the championships was Papua New Guinea’s second swimmer of the day, Barbara Vali-Skelton who took to the pool in the Women’s 100m Breaststroke. Having set a personal best in the last World Championships two years ago, in Barcelona, Vali-Skelton was determined to go a step further and beat that time of 1 minute 16.03 seconds.


In the pool, Vali-Skelton started strongly and her determination was clear to see as she finished in 1 minute 16.85 seconds.


Speaking in the mixed zone afterwards Vali-Skelton was upbeat;

“It went really well. It was the best race I’ve done in two years and I haven’t got close to that time for a few years so I’m really happy”.


When asked about the reason for such a strong performance, she replied;

I just stuck to my race plan. I went out max’ in the first 50m and just held on, on the way back”.


Her performance in the World Championships (25m) in Istanbul, in 2012, is the one she regards the highest, with a time of 1:13.74, however, she now believes today’s race is second only to that.


Samoa’s Brandon Schuster produced a pleasing performance competing in the Men’s 200m Freestyle, Schuster qualified for these championships with a time of 1:57.62. This was a personal record set just under a month previously, which he was aiming to beat.


He entered the water as the fastest of the 10 swimmers in the heat. Conscious of going out too fast in yesterday’s 400m Freestyle, he turned in 7th place in a time of 28.04.

“I went pretty fast first 50m but held back a bit.”

He was still in 3rd place at the final turn, only for him to put in a final 50 m in 29.40 seconds to clinch victory in his heat with a time of 1 minute 57.93 seconds.


Schuster agreed that the final quarter was the strongest part of the race for him.

“The last 50m I felt I did pretty well. I sprinted the last 25/50m and caught up with the guy who was leading. I was fairly happy with the back end of the race”.


The Samoan has a unique swimming environment in the fact the coach is his mother, Suzie Schuster. When asked about what his coach would think he laughed and replied;

“My coach might be happy and then there’s the mom/coach that’d be like ‘why didn’t you get a PB?’” he joked. “But I’m pretty sure she’ll be a lot happier after yesterday’s swim!”


Pilar Shimizu of Guam, under the coaching of Don San Agustin, was another Pacific island swimmer heading into her second major championship in a month. As such, there was plenty of learning points around recovery and handling successive major swim meets that she was keen to recognize after her swim in the 100m Breaststroke Preliminaries.


With a finishing time of 1 minute 18.11 seconds, the swimmer who currently lives in Baltimore, Maryland reflected on her performance;

 “It was not my best. I could have done better. Coming off a big meet like the Pacific Games which was my focus, I just wanted to do my best. I didn’t have the greatest two weeks between meetings, it’s tough so I just wanted to do my best.”

Pilar will get another chance to remedy things later in the week when she appears in the 200m Breaststroke. An opportunity she relishes.


Palau’s swimmers were once again first into the pool on day two of the 16th FINA World Championships. After yesterday’s record breaking swim by Dirngulbai Misech in the Women’s 100m Butterfly, spirits were high within the team.

The spotlight today fell upon Roylin Akiwo with the 15 year old set to swim in the Women’s 100m Backstroke.


This was her third World Championship and she came out of the ‘Call Room’ with mixed emotions saying that she was “really excited, and very nervous.”


After a solid start, the current Palauan national record holder in this event, found the going a little more challenging as the race developed. Her finishing time of 1 minute 20.72 seconds was just over two seconds outside her best, which was secured at the recent Pacific Games.


As she commented afterwards, two major meets in the last month have left her legs a little heavy,

“My swim was ok, I thought I could have done better but I’m not sure what happened, my kick just started dying.”


Nevertheless, she is enjoying her experience here in Russia and values being part of Team Palau.


Roylin will be back in the pool later this week in the 50m Breaststroke and despite the hectic schedule is focused on improving by doing her best “to get my personal best times.”