Members of the Stockton Swim Club had the unique opportunity when they got a chance to compete against other young swimmers from around the world in the city that will host the 2020 Summer Olympics.
Twenty-five young Stocktonians beween the ages of seven to 17, participated in the March Age Group Championships on March 10-11 at the Tokyo Tatsumi International Swimming Center during an eight-day trip to Japan.
The Stockton Swim Club, which operates out of the St. Mary’s High School pool, has been in existence for 10 years, but this is the first time that the club has had a group travel to an overseas meet. The event attracted approximately 2,000 youngsters on 25 teams, mostly from countries such as the Philippines, Singapore and mainland China.
“Our kids have gone to a number of national meets, but this was the first time the club has gone to an international one,” according to Stockton Swim Club head coach Shunichi Fujishima, who has been leading the club for the past 1 ½ years since being appointed to that position by club founder Bryan Davis.
The Stockton Swim Club made quite an impression placing eighth overall, with a few swimmers doing well in their divisions.
Brady Drouin, a 13-year-old who attends Sierra Middle School, finished third place overall in the boys 13-14 division.
“It was pretty good, and everyone who was there were good all-around swimmers,” said Drouin. “We had a lot of fun but we also had a mind-set to swim hard. Coach Shun (Fujishima) told us to have fun, but also realize we have a good reputation from where we come from. I think it made us realize how lucky we are and that our coaches are awesome.”
Kait Rasmussen, a 15-year-old sophomore at Lincoln High, said being at the meet inspired her to do well, but also took time to enjoy the opportunity to engage with athletes from other countries. She placed 11th overall in the 15-18 girls division.
“It really motivated me, because the whole world was there, and I want to improve my swimming,” said Kait, who wants to compete at a Division I university.
Everybody at the meet took time to get to know the other teams, and exchanging gifts was one way to break the ice.
“We traded swim caps and T-shirts with other teams,” Kait Rasmussen said. “A lot of the kids came from American-based schools, so they knew English and there were no language barriers.”
Nate Rasmussen, Kait’s 12-year-old brother and a sixth-grader at John McCandless School , placed sixth overall in the boys 11-12 division and won the 100 butterfly.
“I enjoyed racing all of the kids, and there were so many of them,” Nate said. “It meant a lot to go on this trip, and it’s inspired me to want to be in the Olympics.”
When they weren’t competing, much of the club members’ time was spent touring the greater Tokyo area, shopping and sampling local cuisine. Some even got to see the site where the Olympic Village will be.
“The furthest we went was around Mount Fuji, but we actually didn’t go there,” said Fujishima, 21, who is from Tokyo and was a former swimmer for the University of the Pacific's men's team. “There is also an amusement park (named Fuji-Q Highland Amusement Park) with the craziest roller coasters.”
Parent Kristen Rasmussen said the trip to Japan was enjoyable for her and her two children, Kait and Nate.
“When Coach said let’s go to Japan, we knew it would be a once-in-a-lifetime trip,” Kristen Rasmussen said. “It’s just knowing that the Olympics are going to be there … We got to see the venue and the locker rooms up close, and all of the kids know what will go on in two years. We were all soaking in the atmosphere.”
Parent Sarah Drouin said, “Tokyo was lovely. The people are very nice and it’s very safe and quiet. No horns are honking and people aren’t rude. Everyone is treating everyone with kindness.”
Many of the Stockton swimmers have kept in contact with the friends they made in Japan. "A few of them are already making plans to visit Japan again," Fujishima said.
When asked about what was the best part of the trip for his team, Fujishima said, "I wanted them to see a diffferent culture, and hope that our kids and the others are the change for the future."
Contact Record staff writer Tony Acosta at (209) 546-8292 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @RecordTony.