Young Sitivi Wins Apolima Strait

Young Sitivi Wins Apolima Strait

Courtesy of Seti Afoa, Apolima Strait Swim, Samoa.

Six soloists and three teams completed the 22.3 km swim Apolima Strait Swim from Upolu to Savai’i in Samoa.

The youngest of the pack led the way and has the potential to become the best hope for Samoa open water swimming on the international scene.

Not only was the 16-year-old Sitivi So’oa’emalelagi the youngest person to swim across the Apolima Strait, he also became the first Samoan champion and was the second fastest time in history.

Robin Rasmussen Rose and Tiffany McQueen were the first American women and Christina Harris became the first South Islander from New Zealand to swim to Savaii. Team Jo Armstrong was an interesting mix of three swimmers: Jo Armstrong is 60, Gerry Glover is 50, and Abby Armstrong is 30. Meanwhile, Noelani Day of Team Tonga and Durant Webster of Mexico were the youngest swimmers at the age of 13.

All the soloists were awarded Savai’i citizenship for their solo efforts.

The most enduring part of this swim is the incredible swim by young Sitivi,” reported Seti Afoa of Samoa Events. “His time of 5 hours 37 minutes is a fast one, considerably so. His late coming into the race and qualifying for Apolima Strait on March 18th with only three weeks to race day.

The issue with Sitivi’s Apolima ambitions was, if any, had to do with long distance swimming. Up until his qualifier Sitivi’s longest swim was 4 km in the Samoa Swim Series in August 2015. Sitivi had been competing in Samoa Swim Series races since 2012 as an 11-year-old and regularly podiumed against overseas swimmers.

Going to 10 km for the qualifier might still be relative to his pool sessions with Tanifa o le Vai national squad but 22.3 km in the open sea? That was the unknown factor

Afoa was in a kayak beside Sitivi on race day and helped him prepare for the longest swim of his life. “After his qualifier, I got him to do more slow 10 km swims and 3 x 5 km workouts up until April 7th. Then Sitivi did 3 x 10km swims and 3 x 7 km swims, then he rested.”

But Afoa remained worried about his young protege. “Sitivi had not done the long lead-in preparations that the other swimmers did. Swimmers for this race prepared well in advance of four months. Getting their shoulders and bodies used to handling that distance is a matter of calculated evolution of movement.

We cannot expect the body to perform at a level it is not used to. Sitivi’s shoulders, no matter how fast he is, have not turned over at speed beyond two hours of swim training at best. That was the unknown factor. To then continue at 14 minutes per km in the open sea for five hours is the most incredible part

Afoa acknowledged that Samoa has a special talent in the young swimmer. “He is the best open water swimmer we have. His pool ambitions may have to give way to his true talent. National coach Suzie Schuster is no doubt mulling over Sitivi’s Apolima result and how best to re-direct her swimmer.”

The 2018 Apolima Strait Swim will be held on April 7th.

Solo Results
1. Sitivi So’oa’emalelagi (16 from Samoa) 5:37:27
2. Paul Feltoe (43 from New Zealand) 6:48:10
3. Christina Harris (53 from New Zealand) 6:53:11
4. Tony McLean (47 from New Zealand) 7:18:38
5. Robin Rasmussen Rose (56 from USA) 8:31:55
6. Tiffany McQueen (44 from USA) 9:35:00

Team Results
1. Team Tonga (Peni Finau, Andrew Emberson, Noelani Day, Finau Ohuafi) 6:35:00
2. Team Jo Armstrong (Jo Armstrong, Gerry Glover, Abby Armstrong) 7:39:01
3. Team Paid for by Mexico (Alex Montoro, Eric Howard, Stuart Brown, Durant Webster) 7:45:00

Photo above show Apolima Strait solo swimmers, Paul Feltoe , Tiffany McQueen, Christina Harris, Sitivi So’oa’emalelagi, Robin Rasmussen Rose, and Tony McLean.

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