By Maria Sunantha Quibilan/Asianjournal.com
LOS ANGELES — A 17-year-old Filipina American who is a current Hawaii State swimming champion has qualified for the 100-meter freestyle event of the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing and is representing the Philippines.
Christel Simms, who has been a competitive swimmer for 9 years, has broken 54 individual Hawaii State records. Her record of 57.12-second time for the 100-meter freestyle heat and 26.38-second time for the 50-meter freestyle both passed the USA Olympic trial cut.
Simms became a member of the USA National Junior Swimming Team in 2007 and finished at 57.17 seconds at the championships last August in Indianapolis. Since then she has caught the attention of many national and international swimming organizations, among them the Philippine Amateur Swimming Association (PASA).
“Simms will definitely help to put Philippines on the map for swimming. She’s an incredibly talented athlete who we’re sure will represent our country very well in the 100-meter freestyle event at Beijing,” said PASA president Mark Joseph. “We’ve had our eye on Christel for almost two years; she’s a hot commodity in the U.S. and we’re extremely glad she’s chosen to take this route and be a Republic of the Philippines representative in the 2008 Olympic Games.”
Although USA Swimming, the national governing body for the sport, has placed Simms as its potential entry to represent the US for the 2012 London Olympic Games, Simms chose to take the opportunity to compete in this quadrennial event even earlier, carrying the Philippine flag.
Simms was raised in the United States but her parents, Charles and Jocelyn, made sure to immerse her and her younger brother in their Filipino culture. “My daughter is Filipino and will swim for the Philippines,” said mother Jocelyn. “Her uncle was a Filipino national tennis champion so our link to Philippine sports is solid.”
The first woman to be part of the Philippine swim team for the Beijing Olympics, Simms joins Miguel Molina, Ryan Arabejo, Daniel Coakley and James Walsh, the four “Golden Boys” of the 24th Southeast Asian Games (held in Thailand last December). The four male swimmers are also from the U.S.
With less than six months to go till the Olympics, Simms is currently undergoing additional hours of training on top of her usual schedule of 18 to 24 hours a week. According to Joseph, the good ties between PASA and USA Swimming assure that “Christel will continue to have the best training in the world.”
Simms is only the seventh Filipina to compete in the Olympics since the Philippines first participated in the Paris 1924 games. The others who have represented the country were Nancy Deano (1976 Montreal), Christine Jacob (1984 Los Angeles), Akiko Thomson (1988 Seoul and 1996 Atlanta), Marie-Liza Danila and Jenny Rose Guerrero (2000 Sydney), and Jacklyn Pangilinan (2004 Athens).