This month, the Olympics will finally commence after a year-long delay due to COVID-19.
The return to normalcy in sports after 2020 is one reason to cheer on the athletes who will be competing in the century-old games. The local Big Island athletes that frequent the Kona Community Aquatic Center will have a more personal reason to watch.
On July 23, Kona Aquatics swimmer Taeyanna Adams will be carrying the flag of her home country of Micronesia for the opening ceremony of the Summer Olympics in Tokyo. Adams, who qualified as a wild card athlete, is competing in the 100-meter breaststroke at her first Olympics.
She left the Big Island last Wednesday for Japan, where Adams and her teammate Tasi Limtiaco will face the best swimmers in the world to try and bring home Olympic medals for Micronesia.
Adams moved to the Big Island last year, and has been training with Kona Aquatics and coach Dave Gibson while attending university classes online.
Adams is the first swimmer coached by Gibson to make an Olympic team.
“Out of all the athletes in the word, there’s very, very small group that goes to the Olympics,” Gibson said. “It’s an honor to know someone who is going, and to have coached them.”
Adams, 19, has already made her mark in Micronesia swimming history. Adams holds the country’s record for women in the short course 50-meter breaststroke (39.52) and the 100 breaststroke (1:30.71).
“She’s worked really hard, and she’s improved a lot since she arrived here,” Gibson said. “She didn’t come with a ton of swimming experience compared to others, but in her country, she was the fastest person. But she’s worked hard and improved a lot in a short period of time.”
Even with Gibson behind her, training in Kona hasn’t been without its challenges. Adams and Gibson have been making the most out of the Kona Community Aquatic Center to get the swimmer ready for the state-of-the-art Olympic facilities and her worldly competitors.
“Because I’m not swimming in a 50M pool, coach has me going more than 100M in training just to make up for the lost distance,” Adams said. “I’ve also been doing crossfit at CrossFit Kona to train.”
“We concentrated on a lot of a breaststroke work, since that’s what she will be competing in,” Gibson said. “The event is 100M and we have a yard pool, so we actually tried to train a little over distance so she was ready to go in a meter pool — it’s a little longer and has a few less turns.”
The Federated States of Micronesia have had athletes compete in every Summer Games since Sydney in 2000, but have yet to have an athlete win a gold, silver or bronze medal.
Adams now has the opportunity to change that for her country.
“I’ve competed at several world championships, but this is the biggest competition I’ve ever been to,” Adams said. “And there’s no greater joy than representing your country. That’s one of the best things about competing in the Olympics.”
And she’ll also have the support of the Kona swimming community behind her.
“It’s great that the team helped her and supported her,” Gibson said. “All the local kids really embraced her and made her experience of getting ready for the Olympics a great thing.”