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Am Samoa represented highly and proudly at recent 2024 WAI Championships

Filomenaleonisa Iakopo (far left lane)
“My strength does not come from myself alone, but from many”

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — American Samoa's flag was flying high and proud in Glasgow, Scotland recently, officially acknowledging the participation of Filomenaleonisa Iakopo in the 2024 World Athletics Indoor Championships.

Turning 18 on February 10, just a few weeks prior to the World Champs, held between 1- 3 March, Filomenaleonisa was still the youngest competitor at what has become the pinnacle of international indoor athletics, where the world's top athletes battle it out for the right to be called World Champion in track and field competition.

This year's event was the 19th edition of the international indoor track and field competition, organized by World Athletics.

It was the third time, after Birmingham 2003 and 2018 that the World Athletics Indoor Championships were held in the United Kingdom, and the first time in Scotland.

Filomenaleonisa represented American Samoa in three disciplines — 60 meters, 100 meters and 200 meters, and although she was at the bottom of the results table, she has achieved an American Samoa national record in the 60-meter dash with the time of 8.44 seconds.

Rubbing shoulders with the world's elite athletes, she shared that it was a surreal experience which she will remember for the rest of her life, and she feels blessed and humbled for the opportunity to compete with the world’s top athletes.

Despite her mediocre results, the young athlete stated that the main thing was, she gave it her all  and this was a continuous learning experience.

But while she might feel intimidated by competing with the world's big guns in the highest international level of athletics competition, she is certainly no stranger to international athletics competitions.

For such a young athlete, she has garnered a very impressive resume which now boasts a total of five international athletics competitions, four of them in the Oceania region and the latest addition, the World Athletics Indoor Championships.

In all these international competitions, she has competed under the flag of American Samoa to honor her father who is the driving force and inspiration which pushes her to be the best she can be in her athletics endeavors.

Her father Stanley Tapuaialupe Iakopo is from American Samoa and her mother, Priscilla Flores Maratita-Iakopo is Chamorro from Saipan, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI).

After initially completing his college education in Hawaii, Stanley had worked there for a time until he was offered a contract to work in Saipan.

It was in Saipan that he met his future wife and they settled there and started a family. Filomenaleonisa is the eldest of three children and has two brothers, Mametto and Audiscott.

Stanley, who is the current Human Resources Director at LBJ Hospital, is also a seasoned athlete who has represented American Samoa in international athletics competition since the 1980s as a sprinter and bodybuilder.

Though he is now in his 50s, he is still competing and was part of the Territory’s athletics squad, together with his three children, in last year’s 17th Pacific Games in Honiara, Solomon Islands.

He revealed that he has encouraged his kids to live healthy lives by engaging in sports and striving to reach their full potential in their chosen sport.

All three have chosen to emulate their father by competing in track athletics.

Filomenaleonisa began her international athletics career as a 16 year-old competing in the 100 meters event of the Oceania U18 Championships held at the Aquatic and Recreation Center, Mackay, Australia on 7 June, 2022. She clocked in at 13.22 seconds.

Her second international meet was the Pacific Mini Games held at the Oleai Stadium, Saipan which took place later on that same month, June 24, 2022 where she competed in the 200 meters event and finished with a time of 28.49 seconds.

Filomenaleonisa participated in her third international outing which was the 2023 Oceania Cup also held at the Oleai Stadium, Saipan on June 23-24. She competed in the 100 meters event on the first day and finished with a time of 13.46 seconds.

On the second day, she ran in the 200 meters event and recorded a time of 27.39 seconds.

Then in November last year, Filomenaleonisa together with her dad and her brothers Mametto and Audiscott, traveled from Saipan to Honiara, Solomon Islands to join Team American Samoa's athletics squad that competed in the 17th Pacific Games.

She competed in the 100 meters event and recorded a personal best time of 12.83 seconds and clocked in at 26.66 seconds for the 200 meters event.

The recent 2024 World Athletics Indoor Championships in Glasgow, Scotland is the fifth and the most prestigous athletics meet she has competed in.

She was accompanied by her mother Priscilla and she represented American Samoa with dignity and respect. Consequently, the crowd in the stadium, which numbered in the thousands, applauded when she was officially recognized for being the first female athlete from American Samoa to compete in the event.

At present, Filomenaleonisa Iakopo is on record as having set three national records for American Samoa — 8.44 seconds in the 60-meter dash at the recent World Indoor Champs in Glasgow, Scotland, 12.83 seconds in the 100 meters event at last year's 17th Pacific Games in Honiara, Solomon Islands and 26.66 seconds in the 200 meters event also at the Honiara Pacific Games, which is a national record for the U18 and U20 age groups.

The next international athletics meet  she is preparing for is the 2024 Oceania Cup to be hosted by Fiji in June.

Early this year, Stanley put into action, a plan that his family has agreed upon and has been in the pipeline for some time, by moving to the Territory to take on the position of HR Director at the LBJ Tropical Medical Center at Fagaalu, for which he had successfully applied.

He stated that he plans to travel to Saipan after the Oceania Cup in Fiji to put their family affairs in order, before he brings his family on their long awaited move to American Samoa.

Filomenaleonisa shared that she is very excited and is looking forward to forging new friendships and to start a new chapter of her life in the land of her father's ancestors, which she has been representing in her athletics career.

"When I wear my country's colors, I stand tall with pride and humility," she declared. "In that moment, I embody the people of American Samoa, connecting deeply with the spirit of our land and honoring my ancestors as well as the promise of future generations.

"This resonates with a Samoan proverb that has been instilled into my life: 'O le tele o sulu e maua ai figota, e mama se avega pe a ta amo fa'atasi,' meaning, my strength does not come from myself alone, but from many."