By Patrick Lujan
He finished more than 18 minutes behind the gold medal winner and was 25th out of 25 swimmers. But that’s not the point.
The point is 16-year-old Guam swimmer Benji Schulte finished his 10 kilometer Olympic swim – six loops around Hyde Park in the center of London on Aug. 10.
“My main goal was just finishing,” said Schulte, who represented Guam last year in the Shanghai world championships in the 100m and 200m breastroke events. “I wanted to keep up with the pack of swimmers as long as I could and I’m pretty happy with how I did with the first 800 to 1000 meters, but after the first 1000 meters they just started to pull away and I couldn’t keep up. I knew I wasn’t able to keep up with them prior to the race.”
Schulte plunged into new waters – figuratively and literally – going from short breaststroke meets to the grueling 10k marathon in which he finished in two hours, three minutes, 35.1 seconds.
“Last week, I was really nervous for it, but as it got closer, I was just excited and looking forward to it,” Schulte added.
After an 8 a.m. bus ride from the Athletes Village to the event site, it was game time at high noon where he jumped into surprisingly warm waters.
“To be honest, it was a lot warmer than I was expecting. It was actually on the hot side, almost to the point of uncomfortable. I guess the heat you exert, I was feeling hot and uncomfortable – right after 500m, started feeling it,” Schulte added.
Schulte said that the last two laps were the toughest – but in the end, finishing the race and gaining experience sets him up for future successes.
“Coming into this race, it was all about getting more experience for future races. London wasn’t really my main focus, it’s really 2016. I’ve been really thinking about what I want to do and focus on Rio, and I’d love to come back and actually come back and be a contender for a medal. But I also want to qualify for the breaststroke, because that’s my favorite stroke.”
Schulte will take a break from swimming for the next month to heal a developing shoulder injury while going back to school as a high school junior at Australia’s Miami State High School on the Gold Coast.
His plans is to eventually go to college at Stanford University or stay in Australia and continue to train.
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