Three teenage athletes from Guam are hoping to compete in the 2024 Summer Olympics and will attempt swimming and surfing.
Because the Olympics is an international sporting event, they want to represent Guam and make their family and friends proud.
Noa Mendiola, a 16-year-old surfer who attends Harvest Christian Academy, believes having the right gear is important for preparation.
“Specifically, the types of surfboards and fins. I will also do mental and physical preparation. Really, I believe the best way to train is to get in the water and surf as much as possible,” Mendiola said.
Mendiola also has tactics to prepare mentally. He sets his standards high enough that he can never reach them.
“It means that I would always pursue something even more important or meaningful,” he said.
Training is never easy and teenage athletes have faced many challenges along their journey with their sport.
“I often wanted to quit because of the challenges I faced during training, but I always do my best to go through with it. I just think how much worse it could be and how lucky I am in a way,” said Keana Santos, a 14-year-old swimmer who attends John F. Kennedy High School. She trained at the St. John’s School pool with her team every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.
Israel Poppe, a 15-year-old swimmer, also works out by swimming three times a week and going to the gym a few times a week. He sympathizes with Santos as he thinks ‘the repetitiveness of (swimming) makes it really hard to want to go back.
As a multi-sport athlete, Mendiola also faced many challenges, such as recovering from injuries, separating sport from his social life and dealing with mental pressures.
Despite the difficulties, a positive spirit and friends helped the athletes to persevere. In the end, their experiences with their sport have been worth their hard work.
“Swimming has had a huge impact on my life. I wouldn’t be friends with the people I trust the most. I couldn’t have the opportunity to represent my island in major competitions, and I wouldn’t be as mentally or physically strong without swimming,” Santos said.
“The best part of surfing is being able to escape from reality. Being in the water is like a stress reliever, especially when I’m surfing with my friends. Surfing has been there for me whenever I had it. need,” Mendiola said.
For Mendiola and Santos, family has been a great source of inspiration. Mendiola’s father was a professional surfer and he passed on his knowledge and skills to Mendiola. His dad taught him to surf when he was 3, and he’s been surfing for 13 years.
Santos’ mother was a swimmer and she encouraged Santos to follow in her footsteps. Santos started in fifth grade and has been swimming for over four years. She admits it’s definitely going to hurt at first, but her advice for newbies is to not give up.
Poppe suggests slowing down and learning the proper technique. “They should just jump in because it’s never too late to start swimming,” he said.