Three members of the Guam National Swimming Team, sharing the pool with some of the world’s top athletes, are competing in the 18th FINA World Championships in Gwangju, South Korea.
Benjamin Schulte, Jagger Stephens and Mineri Gomez took a detour after competing in the 2019 Pacific Games in Apia, Samoa, to participate in the FINA championships taking place from July 12-28. The competition has attracted athletes from a record 192 nations.
Don San Agustin, Team Guam head coach, said the biennial event draws “the world’s top competitors, especially leading to the Olympics in 2020.”
Schulte, entering Korea with a silver-medal performance earned in Samoa during the 50-meter breaststroke – one in which he broke the Guam National Record – did it again.
He set a new record at 28.72 seconds in Korea.
The 23-year-old Schulte, also bettering his time in the 100-meter breaststroke, improved by one-hundredth of a second.
“It’s always a lot of fun racing the 100 breast,” said Schulte, a two-time Olympian. “It’s my favorite event, so I always get myself into a positive and exciting headspace.”
Schulte, intent on a third straight Olympic appearance, said, “There is still a lot of work to be done before Tokyo, and I’m ready to get back to training.”
Stephens, 21, competing in the men’s 50-meter and 100-meter freestyle, compared the competition to a double-edged blade.
“Getting a chance to compete with the world’s best is an experience that can make or break people,” he said. “If you let the pressure attack you in the wrong way, you’ll crumble under it. But, if you’re able to ride that pressure out and let it drive you, you may find yourself swimming the best performance of your life.”
Gomez, shaving off time nearly every time entering the pool, continues to improve. On Wednesday, competing in the women’s 200-meter freestyle, she set a personal record. With a new posted time of 2 minutes, 23.73 seconds, she met her goal.
“Competing against many countries is very exciting, especially swimming in the same pool with famous Olympic medalists,” said the 18-year-old standout.
Gomez will finish her championship run with the 100-meter freestyle on Friday. Her best time in the event is 1:04.
“Knowing that I’m competing for not only Oceania but also against bigger countries makes me aware of how big the competition is," Gomez said. "It helps prepare my mind and body for the swim.”