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SWIMMING’S GOLDEN GIRL IIJIMA ADDS TRIATHLONS TO REPOUR

Twenty-one-year-old Manami “Mana” Iijima is quite the athlete. This stellar young lady was a top swimmer for many years and is now making headlines in triathlons.

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By Jesse Santos

A multi-medal winner in swimming in her younger years, Manami Iijima has taken up triathlon and has been successful so far. (photo by Guam Triathlon Federation)

A multi-medal winner in swimming in her younger years, Manami Iijima has taken up triathlon and has been successful so far. (photo by Guam Triathlon Federation)

Twenty-one-year-old Manami “Mana” Iijima is quite the athlete. This stellar young lady was a top swimmer for many years and is now making headlines in triathlons. At this point, the sky is the limit for Iijima.

At the ripe age of three, Iijima’s mother signed her up for swimming lessons. And from that point on, she never looked back. Iijima swam in Japan and then continued when she moved to Guam.

Iijima dabbled in tennis and soccer, but her love was swimming. “Throughout my high school years in Japan, I was able to qualify for the high school national championships and Junior Olympics.” She qualified for the Junior Olympics each time they were held, which was twice a year.

Iijima has won medals from numerous competitions. In 2005 alone, she won five bronze from the Mini South Pacific games in Palau and six gold in the Arafura Games in Australia.

The following year, Iijima outshined the competition, similarly to Michael Phelps, winning an amazing ten gold and seven silver medals in the Micronesian Games in Saipan. She impressively medaled in every single event.

In 2010, her team placed third in the Japan High School National Championships in the 400m freestyle relay; her split was 58:30, which sent them to the Junior Olympics where they placed sixth in the open division in the 400m freestyle relay. Her split improved to 57:88. Iijima also took silver in the 200m freestyle, with a personal best 2:05.22.

Iijima's most comfortable in the water, but showing her athleticism via headstands outside the water has been common practice. (courtesy photo)

Iijima’s most comfortable in the water, but showing her athleticism via headstands outside the water has been common practice. (courtesy photo)

After high school she kept her suit, but added a bike and running shoes to her collection. Her mom had inspired her to start running 5K’s and then one day a book piqued her interest. “When I started having an interest in triathlons last year, I picked up this book called “A Life Without Limits” by Chrissie Wellington. I just fell in love with the sport more and I hadn’t even started it then. It got me so excited. I’ve read that book more than three times.”

Iijima just signed up for XTERRA Guam, which is on March 29th trails so I’m getting a lot of help from other triathletes. I am pretty comfortable on the swim and run but biking is still very new to me. I try to be o my bike as much as possible.”

Iijima’s goals include, “Listen to my body and don’t push too hard. Also, to have fun and enjoy doing what I love to do.” She also hopes to be as fast as Mieko Carey, Charlie Epperson and Cameron O’Neal, “and all those super fast and inspirational people. Everyone that does sports influences me.”

“I like the challenge. The challenge to become faster, more patient, and most of all a better person.”

When asked if she has any friendly competition she stated, “Yes, but for the past 15+ years of being an athlete, I think the biggest competition is with myself.”

Iijima would like to thank everyone who has supported her throughout her years as a swimmer and now as a triathlete. “Also, a big thank you to Guam’s Triathlon community for encouraging me and helping me out. I hope to inspire people to just have fun with sports and enjoy what they do!”

If anyone is up to the challenge to test their swimming speed, Manami’s personal best’s are:

She was the golden girl in the 2006 Micro Games: 10 gold and 7 silver in the pool. Swimming is like riding a bike to her. (photo by Guam Triathlon Federation)

She was the golden girl in the 2006 Micro Games: 10 gold and 7 silver in the pool. Swimming is like riding a bike to her. (photo by Guam Triathlon Federation)

100m freestyle – 58:30

200m freestyle – 2:05.22

400m freestyle – 4:20.91

200m Individual Medley – 2:18.01

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