Bronze for swim team's last hoorah | Sports | saipantribune.com – Saipan Tribune

The men’s 4x100m medley relay team, from left, Kean Pajarillaga, Isaiah Aleksenko, Kouki Watanabe, and Juhn Tenorio won bronze with a time of 3:59:97 last Friday in the Aquatics Center. New Caledonia won gold and Tahiti was silver.
The NMI National Swim Team members, including coach Hiroyuki Kimura, far right, and coach Richard Sikkel, back left, pose for a group photo at the Aquatic Center before the start of their pool competitions.

Editor
The men’s 4x100m medley relay team, from left, Kean Pajarillaga, Isaiah Aleksenko, Kouki Watanabe, and Juhn Tenorio won bronze with a time of 3:59:97 last Friday in the Aquatics Center. New Caledonia won gold and Tahiti was silver.
The NMI National Swim Team members, including coach Hiroyuki Kimura, far right, and coach Richard Sikkel, back left, pose for a group photo at the Aquatic Center before the start of their pool competitions.
HONIARA, Solomon Islands—The CNMI men’s 4x100m individual medley relay team gave the Northern Marianas its eighth medal of the 2023 Pacific Games after it won bronze in the last day of pool events last Friday night at the Aquatic Center.
Since the start of swimming events last Monday until its last day on Friday, CNMI swimmers racked up four medals—one gold and three bronze—and broke 18 age group and national records along the way.
The 4x100m medley relay team consisted of Juhn Tenorio, Kouki Watanabe, Isaiah Aleksenko, and Kean Pajarillaga and clocked in just under four minutes at 3:59.97 which was good enough for bronze. Gold went to New Caledonia with a time of 3:50.80 and Tahiti won silver at 3:58.10.
Tenorio said of his first leg backstroke swim, “We really wanted a medal for the medley relay, so I really had to focus and trust the boys to bring it back home. All I had to do was come in at the fastest time I could and that’s what I did, so I’m happy about the bronze.”
Watanabe, who swam the second leg via breaststroke said, “My main goal was not to lose the second-place lead that much and let Isaiah make the big gaps in his swim. When I touched, I came in third so I’m glad I didn’t lose the lead that much.”
Aleksenko, who did the butterfly swim, said for the team, “Kouki did really well because the swimmers in the breaststroke were really fast; Juhn made a really big gap also.” As for his swim, he said he didn’t expect to catch up to second place Tahiti, “but I caught up and made a big gap, and thankfully Kean started off really well and also caught up with Tahiti. We almost got second place—we lost by just a second—it was so close.”
For the last leg in the freestyle, Pajarillaga said he was second to New Caledonia in the first 50m of his swim, but Tahiti “sped up out of nowhere. In my head, I was like ‘dang at least I’ll get third and just give it my all. I was really thankful for the team for the lead and their great effort in the race.”
In other results that night, Tenorio came in sixth in the men’s 100m backstroke with a time of 1:00.24, while Pajarillaga came in last at 1:02.85.
The women’s 4x100m medley relay team made up of Shoko Litulumar, Maria Batallones, Julia Jinang, and Frances Raho came in fifth place with a time of 5:05.82.
As for the number of new records, there were seven age group records broken and 11 national records broken.
The updated records were: the men’s 4×100 freestyle relay team’s time of 3:39.66 broke the national record; Batallones’ 50m breaststroke time of 35.09 seconds broke the 15-16 age group and national record; the men’s 4x200m freestyle relay time of 8:16.38 broke the national record; Pajarillaga’s 200m backstroke time of 2:16.40 broke the 17-18 age group and national record; Tenorio’s 200m backstroke time of 2:14.79 then updated the national record again; Aleksenko’s 200m butterfly of 2:05.86 reset the 17-8 age group and national record, his 50m butterfly time of 25.31 seconds updated the 17-18 age group and national record, and he went on to update both again in the finals with a time of 25.13 seconds; Aleksenko, in the 50m freestyle of the 4x50m mixed freestyle relay clocked in at 24.66 seconds to reset the 17-18 age group and national record; Batallones broke the 15-16 age group record in the 100m breaststroke with a time of 1:20.86; and finally, the men’s 4×100 medley relay team updated the national record with their time of 3:59.97.
Coach Hiroyuki Kimura said first, he’d like to mention Taiyo Akimaru. “He is our fifth man of the NMI medley relay team. The day before the medley relay, we had a 100m breaststroke event. For that result, Kouki marked a faster time than Taiyo, so Kouki was selected as the breaststroke swimmer in the next day’s medley relay. After that, Taiyo focused on being a supporter for the relay team.” Kimura added, “I would like to express my respect for his actions of caring for his teammates, his dedication, and his support. It can be said that this bronze medal was won by five people including Taiyo. It was truly a victory for Team NMI.”
As for the whether the team as a whole exceeded his expectations? Kimura said no, the results were as expected. “The only unexpected thing was getting a bronze medal in the 4x200m freestyle relay on Day 2. This surprised me. In addition, there were some medals that I had counted but we missed it. So, I feel like it’s even.”
On the Pacific Games experience, he said, “I think the swimmers did their best despite the difficult conditions. I am sure that this experience will be useful in their future.”
“At the end, this year’s Pacific Games swimming was a true NMI whirlwind. After suddenly winning a medal on Day 1, they not only raised the CNMI flag on the center pole for the first time in swimming and sing the national anthem loudly, but also reached the podium in two relays, and in how many events did they stand on the finals stage! No participating country could have predicted this. It was truly an NMI whirlwind.”
“This whirlwind would not have been possible without coach Richard [Sikkel] and team manager Yuko [Kimura]. We cannot thank them enough. It was truly a victory for Team NMI swimming!” said Kimura
Coach Richard Sikkel, for his part, said, “Super proud of how well the team performed, not just individually, but as a team. As a team the more experienced swimmers took the younger swimmers under their wings and showed them the ropes of an international competition. The men’s relay team earned their first medals in the [Pacific Games].”
“The individual accomplishments include many of the swimmers reaching the finals, swimming age group and national records or swimming personal best times, and of course Isaiah taking home two individual medals. In all I’d say the games were successful,” said Sikkel.
Sikkel then said the swim team would like to thank their sponsors and the Northern Mariana Islands Swimming Federation for providing this opportunity; and PHI Pharmacy for helping out with the malaria medication.
As of Nov. 25, team NMI’s medal count is two gold, one silver, and five bronze for a total of eight medals.
Editor
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