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American Samoa's mini-games sprinter offered training opportunities

Filomenaleonisa Iakopo running on mini-games track

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — After the 2022 Pacific Mini Games in Saipan, CNMI last week, sprinter Filomenaleonisa Iakopo, who presented American Samoa in the track and field events is now heading to the next step in her athletic career after coaches from several countries offered her the opportunity to train with them for future international tournaments.

Her proud father, Stanley Iakopo confirmed this to Samoa News this week.

Iakopo said that several coaches approached him and his daughter regarding an opportunity to further her training for future tournaments. He said that his daughter is young and there is a chance she can became a better sprinter for American Samoa in the future.

“The Pacific Mini Games is only the beginning for Filomenaleonisa, she will continue to train consistently. Her performance at the PMG [Pacific Mini Games] opened new opportunities, such as coaches from other countries offering to train her. With the federation’s support and blessing. Filomenaleonisa will be ready to compete in any future competition at the international level,” Mr. Iakopo said.

According to Mr. Iakopo, Filomenaleonisa was focused, ready, and fearless. She wasn’t intimidated running against the sprint queen and other experienced sprinters. She was mentally prepared for her races. She didn’t allow anything to get in the way of executing her run.

“Our girls (Filomenaleonisa Iakopo and Emelie Chen) represented our country with pride and honor. They both went up against athletes twice or three times their age. But they stood toe to toe and never got intimidated. That I’m proud of and they both knew our Samoan people are with them in spirit and prayers.”

Iakopo said that the PMG was a good experience for Filomenaleonisa and Emelie to taste and feel how hard the international competition can be.

“This was a great experience for these young athletes to learn how to compete at the international level and what type of training and preparation they need to attend to prepare them for the next level of competition,” Iakopo said.

Iakopo, who was also the American Samoa team’s Chef-de-Mission at the PMG was overwhelmed by the support from family and friends.

“We would like to thank the president of the American Samoa National Olympic Committee (ASNOC) Ed Imo and the entire committee, along with the American Samoa Track and Field Association, Mr Don Fuimaono and Deanna Fiumaono, Sauia Gym and our Langkilde Family in Pago Pago for their love and support.”

Both Stanley and his daughter Filomenaleonisa, along with Emelie Chen represented American Samoa in the PMG in Saipan, CNMI last week.

Fifteen-year-old Filomenaleonisa, along with her father, Stanley competed in the track and field event while Emelie Chen competing in the sport of golf.

“This is a great opportunity for us to represent our country and on behalf of my family, I would like to sincerely take this time to thank to Mr. Imo for allowing us this golden opportunity to represent American Samoa.”

“It’s a blessing to represent our country in the Pacific Mini Games. I’m very humble and honored for the opportunity. We go through a lot during our training. We have a lot of challenges but we thank God for giving us the strength and the power to do things in life. This was not an easy journey but without God we would not be able to do it,” Mr. Iakopo said.

Last month, Mr. Iakopo and his daughter traveled to American Samoa, not only to train, but for his daughter to meet the rest of his family and visit the island for the first time.

The pair are using several locations for training — the Malaeoletalu in Fagatogo, the Malae o le Su’iga’ula a le Atuvasa in Utulei, and also the Sauia Bodybuilding & Fitness Gym in Tafuna.

“My daughter wanted to come home to meet my families, visit the island and train here locally to make sure she has the blessings from the elders and especially from ASNOC before the games started,” Mr. Iakopo said.