Samoan tyro begins his international career
It’s not all about the Olympics in 2012, as 15-year-old Samoan Jamal Tamasese attests. While the superstars are all preening for the London Olympic Games, at the other end of the world, Jamal is beginning to get to grips with the sport and has just returned home from his first major international competition — the Oceania Championships in Auckland, New Zealand.
While there are just a handful of swimmers at the top level in Samoa, Jamal is at the forefront of his sport in a country more known for its rugby prowess. Jamal attended the Fijian Championships in April, landing silver in 15-17 boys’ 100m Fly, 100m Free and 200 IM.
At the Oceania Championships, Jamal did extremely well, gaining more regional experience and demonstrated an ability to focus on his races and commit to achieving personal best times. He achieved PBs in the 100m Fly 50m Fly, 200m Free, 50m Back, 100m Free, 50m Breast, 200m IM and 50m Free. He succeeded in getting into the B Finals for 100m Fly, 200m Free.
Not bad for a kid who rates going to the beach and waterfalls with friends and playing rugby as his favourite pastimes. Even in uncongested Afiamalu, Jamal still has a 20-30-minute drive to training. If he catches buses it takes about an hour for the 11km trip. He trains at what is called the Aquatic Centre; it was built just before the South pacific Games in 2007.
Jamal lived in New Zealand for four years and came back at the end of 2008, taking up swimming in 2009.
Jamal Tamasese (SAM)
“The Oceania champs were really hard but it made me stay focused. Everyone took their races seriously and I knew I could do my best because I was mentally ready for them. I had no other distractions. I just knew I had to get in and do my best,” he said.
In January 2011 Jamal became the youngest Samoan to receive the Bronze Medallion for life saving.
Jamal rates his Aunt Moana as one of his heroes. She has always encouraged Jamal. She is a graduate from Harvard with a Masters in Universal Education Policies and is working as an education director overseas. Jamal loves to read the magazines from Harvard, especially on education and sports.
Jamal is not the only high achiever in his family, with sister Tehani (14) also swimming at the Fiji nationals. She did personal bests in all events. She can also turn her hand to judo, where she holds a yellow belt. Aunt Joyce competed in an International Judo competition in 2009, and won gold in an Auckland competition in 2011. Uncle Ed is a B grade champ in squash. Uncle Patini is a paddling star and has travelled to almost all Pacific competitions in V6 boats and V6 outrigger competitions.
Jamal is coached by Suzie Schuster, whom he regards as determined, organised, confident, creative and straight forward. Jamal’s big aim is to bring those times down and start thinking about he could become an Olympian. In the meantime, he says: “I am hoping to stay here for the next two years and then try to get a scholarship, maybe to the United States as a scout has already been here saying that there is a possibility if I keep my grades up as well as do well in swimming.”
Good luck, Jamal.