By Robert Balajadia
Pilar Shimizu has been swimming for the past 12 years of her young 16-year-old life. Much like fellow Olympian Benji Schulte, Shimizu will be entering the 2012 London Olympics as a first time competitor featuring her highest form of competition yet on the world’s biggest stage.
The pressure for Guam’s 16-year-old swimmers might be too much to handle but they have their heads in a comfortable place. Schulte feels no pressure while Shimizu is only focused on her personal goals.
“For this year’s Olympics, I just want set a personal best,” she stated.
Shimizu attends high school at St. Thomas Aquinas and spends time with friends and family while away from the water. Being an Olympic competitor takes more than just commitment from a single body and Pilar acknowledges everyone, especially her family, who has strived to make the Olympic dream a reality ever since her early swimming years.
“Well, I first started swimming because I needed an activity that would keep me fit and healthy but as the years went by I discovered that I was pretty good and started international competition when I was 13. I didn’t try out for the Olympics but when I knew that I was eligible my family really helped me realize how important this opportunity was.”
To say you got to compete against your favorite superstar athletes is not a phrase that passes most anyone’s lips. Shimizu will be competing in the 100 meter breaststroke while going up against one of her favorite swimmers Rebecca Soni, a three-time medalist in the 2008 Olympics. Soni swims for Team USA and holds records in the 100 and 200-meter breaststroke short and long course.
“I am very much a fan of Rebecca Soni because she is one of the fastest breaststrokers in the world and Ryan Lochte… because he’s awesome,” Shimizu stated. Though Lochte will be racing in the men’s division, Shimizu will be glad to see him compete.
The Olympic experience is different for many competitors as each of them have their own level of expectation and excitement. Shimizu has plenty to be excited for but she’s looking forward mostly to, “experiencing the Olympic atmosphere firsthand, utilizing world class facilities, representing my island, and of course meeting new people.” Walking through the stadium during the opening ceremony is favored amongst Guam athletes in good reason as most consider it a once in a lifetime experience.
Though Shimizu is going in to the 2012 Olympics with the mindset of “setting a personal best,” she still enjoys swimming as a team sport. Swimming has done more than keep Shimizu in shape like teaching her life lessons along the way.
“For me swimming has sort of been a love-hate relationship but at the end of the day, it has really taught me a lot about discipline and motivation. I guess the thing I love most about it is the team aspect. I enjoy being able to compete around the world and challenge myself but still have my friends around to help me stay loose and relaxed,” she stated.
While Guam will be watching all eight Olympians proudly represent and compete, Shimizu will be watching a couple of her favorite sports, aside from Ryan Lochte compete, in being as much a fan of the Olympics as a competitor.
“I’m very excited to watch gymnastics and volleyball. I’ve always loved those two sports and I can’t wait to watch them at the Olympic level.”
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