By Robert Balajadia
Ever since being introduced to the water at five years old, Benji Schulte has strived to get better. The 16-year old Guam native will be representing Guam in the upcoming 2012 London Olympics in the 10K marathon. Schulte will be one of the three swimmers representing Guam including Pilar Shimizu and Chris Duenas.
Schulte, a former Tamuning resident, is currently living in Australia having moved there two years ago but still comes back to the island to compete in annual swimming events. He started swimming competitively on Guam for the Tarakito Swim Club, a team he is still part of, while attending his early high school life at John F. Kennedy.
16 going on Olympian
While most high school students at 16-years old get ready for finals and prom Schulte is preparing for the biggest competition on a global scale. With all the big names in swimming going to be at Schulte’s side, he admitted he was a little intimidated but can handle the pressure.
“I really don’t feel any pressure, it’s just another swim meet. You do the same thing, you get dressed the same way and wall up the same way as you would in a local meet with hundreds of other swimmers. This is just another competition,” stated Schulte.
Schulte is not going into the Olympics with unreasonable expectations and is aiming for gaining a lot of experience. This goal to swim with the world’s greatest has been made possible through training year round. While dealing with the normality of any high school student, Schulte takes no time off from training.
“Training has been intense. I train 10 times a week, get up at 4:45 a.m. before school and train until 7:30 a.m. then I go to school and back to the pool after. So I pretty much live by the pool,” he stated.
Schulte gives a lot of credit to his coaches in Toshiki Ijima, world famous Dennis Cotterell and Tarakito Swim Club coach Joseph Pepe Laflamme. During Schulte’s short visit to Guam it has been coach Pepe who has been at the pool training him. Schulte said that the relationship with his coach has surpassed the professional level and has evolved into a family level. He puts a lot of trust in Pepe in having been there with him since the beginning.
Schulte’s parents Greg and Lou Schulte have been as committed as he, not only in an Olympic sense but swimming in general. Benji also gives thanks to everyone who has been there since his shallow swimming days at the Agana pool.
“My dad wakes up at 4-5 a.m. to take me to the pool every morning while my mom organizes everything. She is in charge of scheduling and letting family and friends on Guam know what is going on and how I am doing. They have been my biggest inspiration and my biggest supporters my entire life,” he stated.
This will be Schulte’s first trip to London and knows that one of the highlights of the Olympic experience will be the opening ceremony.
“I’ve been thinking about the opening ceremony for the longest time and I can’t wait to get there and have it start. I went to the Pacific Games in New Caledonia last year and that opening ceremony was amazing. Just walking around the track and waving at everybody and they are all cheering for you. I can’t imagine a 50,000 seat stadium where all attention is on you and the world watching,” stated Schulte on the walking in.
The Olympic experience can be considered once in a lifetime but Schulte has no plans of making this trip his last. At 16-years old, the sky is the limit and Schulte is more than ready.
“I would love to compete in the Olympics until I’m 40 but you never know what can happen in four years. I’m trying to take it one step at a time so I’m thinking this is going to be my only Olympics so that I get really excited for it and that when this is gone I can forget about it and look forward to the next one.”
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