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Samoan-Chamorro sprinter to run for Am Samoa in Paris Olympics

Filomenaleonisa Iakopo
Compiled by Samoa News staff

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — A Northern Marianas sports reporter says Filomenaleonisa Iakopo left Saipan on Saturday morning with Paris as her final destination. She will compete in the 100 meters event of the Olympic Games in the French capital on Aug. 2 representing American Samoa.

The now 18-year-old athlete has competed in multiple qualifying events and achieved the required times in sanctioned events. She recently broke the American Samoa national records in the 100m and 200m with times of 12.83 and 26.66, respectively, during the 2023 Pacific Games in the Solomon Islands.

“My consistent performance and dedication in training allowed me to hit these benchmarks and earned me a spot to represent American Samoa at the Olympic Games,” she told reporter James Sablan Jr. who reported it first in the Marianas Variety newspaper.

Iakopo said sports have been a significant part of her life for as long as she can remember. She and her family members have always been involved in many athletic endeavors such as motocross, Brazilian jiu-jitsu and bodybuilding.

“However, track and field really stuck with me. The thrill of sprinting and the discipline of pushing myself to go faster is what captivated me,” Iakopo said.

Her first international competition was in 2022 at the Oceania Athletics Championships in Mackay, Australia followed by the Pacific Mini Games 2022, Oceania Cup 2023, Pacific Games 2023, the World Athletics Indoor Championships 2024 in Glasgow, Scotland and the Oceania Athletics Championships 2024 in Suva, Fiji.

Iakopo said her parents Stanley and Priscilla play a huge role in her successes.

“My father has always been the one to train me and he has been there every step of the way, offering guidance, his knowledge, and tough love when needed,” she said.

“My mother plays a huge role behind the scenes. She ensures everything is taken care of, from meal preparations and managing schedules to providing emotional support.

“My success is a testament to the teamwork and sacrifices of both my parents. They both have shaped me into the athlete I am today.”

Iakopo said she was also inspired by her father’s stories and experiences in track and field. “I have always dreamed of becoming an Olympian,” she said.

“The idea of representing my island on the world stage and competing against the best athletes has been a driving force behind my commitment and hard work.

“My father's legacy and my own aspirations have fueled my journey to reach the highest levels of athletics.”


Iakopo’s career kicked off in 2023 when her parents arranged for her to train under Coach Peter Pulu of Papua New Guinea, the current 100m record holder for the Pacific and a competitor in multiple Olympics and World Athletics Championship events.

“Coach Peter Pulu’s training has been instrumental in my development as an athlete,” she said. “His knowledge, expertise and dedication have helped me reach new heights in my performance. Coach Pulu's guidance has not only improved my technique and speed but also instilled in me a deeper understanding of the sport and what it takes to succeed at the highest level.”

Iakopo said her heritage plays a significant role in shaping her approach to track and field. “I am a proud Chamorro and Samoan. I believe that we need to take all opportunities that we can get as they don’t come often. My parents have instilled in me that anything is possible, we just have to stay determined,” she said.

“I am blessed that the American Samoa Olympic Committee, through the American Samoa Track and Field Association, has given me this opportunity.

“Although I am unable to wave the CNMI flag on the Olympic track, I hold the CNMI in my heart. I truly hope that one day, the CNMI can be represented in the Olympics. While there’s a part of me that feels torn, I see it as an opportunity to bring pride to both territories. My accomplishment of competing in the Olympics does not only belong to me but to everyone in the CNMI. It’s a chance to showcase the talent and determination of Pacific Islanders on a global stage, and I am deeply proud to carry the hopes and dreams with me.”

Iakopo said her goal is to set a new personal best record in the 100 meters and advance as far as possible in the competition.

As a representative of American Samoa, she said she aims “to inspire young athletes back home and demonstrate that with hard work and determination, they too can achieve their dreams. People have told me that my dreams are too big and that I’ll never make it far. As cliché as it is, anything is possible when you stay true to your goals and self,” Iakopo said.

She is looking forward to competing against the world’s best athletes and experiencing the Olympic spirit firsthand.

“The opportunity to meet athletes from different cultures and share this incredible journey with them is something I greatly anticipate. Additionally, I am excited about the opening ceremony and the chance to march with my fellow athletes under the American Samoa flag.”