Off-island athletes join Team Am Samoa in Athletics & Bodybuiding competitions
Honiara, SOLOMON ISLANDS — More off-island athletes have arrived to help Team American Samoa’s quest for medals in the 17th Pacific Games in the Solomon Islands.
A Samoan father and his three children who live in Saipan arrived on Wednesday night at Panatina Campus, to beef up Team American Samoa’s athletics and bodybuilding squad as they prepare to do battle.
Stanley Tapuaialupe Iakopo and his three children — Filomenaleonisa- 17 years old, Mametto- 16 years old and Audiescott-14 years old — will all be competing in the Athletics team, with Stanley also competing in bodybuilding.
In an exclusive interview with the 51-year-old father, he expressed his gratitude at being able to represent American Samoa in these Games.
“American Samoa holds a special place in my heart,” Iakopo declared. “I was born and raised there and I see my participation in these Games as a way of giving back to our community back home even though I now live in Saipan.”
Stanley Tapuaialupe Iakopo was born at LBJ Hospital and grew up in Ili’ili, near the golf course, with relatives in Nu’uuli, Pago Pago, Onenoa and Malaeloa.
He was raised by his maternal grandparents, Samataua Tapuaialupe and Akata Iakopo-Tapuaialupe, his grandfather was a Catholic Catechist at Fogagogo.
His mother Maria Filomena Tapuaialupe had divorced his Polish father and his mother’s brothers were his father figures.
Being half-caste, he was the only white-skinned, blonde-haired kid in his elementary class at Lupelele and his peers often made fun of him because of his looks.
However, he stood his ground and refused to be bullied, which resulted in many fights until he was finally accepted as one of “the boys.”
After elementary school, he continued his education at Marist High School where he graduated in 1990.
He then joined the local workforce at the Emergency Medical Services Academy (EMS) coordinated by then EMS Chief Fuapopo Avegalio, and worked as an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) for three years.
He then left for Hawaii where he undertook his tertiary education at the University of Hawaii graduating with a Bachelor of Science in Speech Language Pathology and Audiology.
He also enrolled at Kapiolani Community College where he successfully completed a degree in Physio Therapy, then worked for a couple of years before going back to school and earning a degree in Nursing.
Still not satisfied with his academic accomplishments, he advanced his efforts to PreMed and Speech Pathology, which he also added to his resume and was offered a contract to work in Saipan.
It was in Saipan that he met his future wife and they settled there.
But it wasn’t long before he again enrolled for a Masters in Education degree, which he successfully completed, then began a stint as a teacher in Saipan.
Currently, he is in the process of writing his thesis for his doctorate. “The need to always strive for something better comes from the advice I received from my grandmother, who instilled in me the values of hard work and to always look to the future,” Iakopo reminisced. “She would always quote the Samoan saying, ‘Tu’utu’u le upega i le loloto…’ (Cast the net in the deeper parts of the ocean and you will catch bigger fish…) That has always motivated me to keep on striving for the best.”
The 51 year-old father of three points out that it is also the advice he instills in his children.
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, who is a high school senior, will be competing in the 100 meters and 200 meters. She has represented American Samoa in the 2022 Pacific Mini Games, the 2022 Oceania Championships and the 2023 Oceania Cup.
She stated that she feels blessed to be able to represent American Samoa in these Games and that her goal is to represent the Territory in the Olympics some day.
Of her two brothers, 14-year old Audiescott takes after her and hopes he will improve his time in the 100 meters, which is currently 11.97 seconds. He pointed out that he is still young and he will work hard to improve his time.
Mametto Iakopo, the 16-year old who will be competing in the 200 meters told Samoa News that he also likes boxing and that he is scheduled to fight his first ever amateur boxing fight on Dec. 16 when he returns home from the Games.
Their father Stanley will be running in the men’s 4x100 meter relay and is in the Bodybuilding competition.
The Iakopo clan is feeling pretty optimistic about next week’s Games and stated that they will give their all for American Samoa.
Athletics begin on the second week of the Games on Monday Nov. 27.
Stanley Iakopo acknowledged with thanks the support of American Samoa National Olympic Committee (ASNOC) President Tuia’ana Ed Imo and Don and Deanna Fuimaono of the American Samoa Athletics Association for their support.
Meanwhile, Team American Samoa will begin its Pacific Games campaign today with the women’s soccer team taking on the strong Papua New Guinea team at 7pm today, Friday November, 17, 2023 (yesterday in Solomon Islands).
This report from the 17th Pacific Games in Honiara, Solomon Islands has been made possible by the sponsorship of Paramount Builders, Inc. and ASNOC.