Filipina swimmer Chloe Isleta said meeting local legend Akiko Thomson made her experience at the recent 32nd Southeast Asian (SEA) Games even more memorable.
“It was surreal. She is one of the nicest people I’ve met. She’s down to earth and very open. You can ask her any questions about swimming or about life in general after swimming, she’ll answer it honestly,” Isleta said of Thomson in an interview with ABS-CBN Sports content lead Migs Bustos.
The 48-year-old Thomson is regarded as one of the winningest Filipina swimmers of all time, having won eight SEA Games gold medals from 1987 to 1993.
She also attended three Olympics and three Asian Games before her retirement.
“She’s one of those people who’ve had an impact in Philippine swimming and continues to inspire a lot of us. So I was very happy and fortunate to be able to meet her,” Isleta added.
When it came to the competition, Isleta said the Cambodia SEA Games served as a gauge to see how far she has improved from last year’s edition.
The women’s 200-meter backstroke silver medalist said her participation in the biennial meet made her even more motivated to reset her personal bests.
“For the 200 backstroke, I got silver, but I think it was one of my favorite races. I dropped two seconds from last year’s SEA Games, and I got my best time. That’s really motivating me to see what I can improve on in the future,” Isleta said.
Isleta clocked 2:16.190 for the 200-meter backstroke race, a significant improvement from her 2:18.60 time in Hanoi, Vietnam last year.
The former Arizona State University and De La Salle University tanker yielded to teammate Xiandi Chua, as the Filipinas had a 1-2 finish in the category.
Isleta also copped the silver in the 4x200 meter freestyle relay, along with Chua, Jasmine Alkhaldi, and Teia Salvino.
“The other silver was in the 4x200 relay. I also got my best time. I was really happy. It was something out of our comfort zone but we really supported each other and made sure we weren’t nervous and only having fun. That was a very fun relay,” Isleta continued.
A native of Ilocos Sur, Isleta admitted that she has learned how to focus on herself, instead of listening to what outsiders have to say.
Having this mindset alone, Isleta said, is what matters as she tries to further improve herself for future competitions.
“For me, going into the SEA Games, there’s a lot of pressure for a lot of the athletes. I’ve learned not to focus on what other people are saying. We all have our personal goals. Focus on yourself, and show the reason why you’re swimming,” she said.
“It’s for the country, for yourself, and if you’re able to put your full effort into the pool, that’s all that matters. And whatever result it is, you just take it and see what you can improve on in the future.”
Photo: (c/o PSC-POC handouts)