Winning a Southeast Asian Games gold medal in swimming has been elusive for the Philippines. The last time the country won one was way back in 2009 when the likes of Daniel Coakley, Ryan Arabejo and Miguel Molina were around. With a talented cast, the Pinoy tankers hope to end that drought.
Leading the national contingent to the Games, which open on Nov. 30, are familiar names in Jasmine Alkhaldi and Jessie Lacuna. There are, however, some dark horses in the mix such as Chloe Kennedy Anne D. Isleta. The 21-year-old who is a full-blooded Filipina who started to swim competitively when she was 6.
Isleta may be a virtual unknown to most. However, she is a well-decorated swimmer in the United States. Among the accomplishments Isleta has under her belt includes winning the California State Championship in the 200 individual medley (IM) during her senior year at Presentation High School in San Jose, California.
She has also up multiple records in various stages of her prep career in the 100 backstroke, 200 medley relay, 100 fly, 100 free, 50 free and 200 IM. Isleta was also part of the Palo Alto Stanford Aquatics team that won the junior championships back in 2014-16.
With a proven track record, Isleta knows she needs guidance from the best in the sport. If she is to reach that Olympic dream, there is perhaps no one better than Bob Bowman to coach her, the same guy behind Michael Phelps’ success.
“I’m very grateful to have him as a coach. He is very experienced. I think I have learned a lot from him,” Isleta said.
When asked on how Bowman was as a coach, Isleta said that it is all business when they train.
“Of course, he is hard (on us) when needed, but there is a balance,” Isleta said.
“He knows what he is doing. He is very specific in many areas and has everything planned to reach a goal. I like that. It shows how we can reach our goal. He is very experienced and he has done this for a long time.
“In practices, we can ask him, ‘Why are we doing this, why are we doing this specific set, stroke or technique?’ He will always have an answer. So I think, that is very good.”
Does Bowman ever cite Phelps as an example?
“Of course, he doesn’t compare us with Michael. We are our own swimmers and I believe that is amazing. He sees us as our own individual swimmers,” Isleta said.
She acknowledged there is one thing that Bowman wants corrected in her technique.
“He has told me this a couple of times and it often gets me into trouble — my finish,” Isleta said with a laugh.
“I was on my backstroke and he keeps on telling us to finish on the wall. But I usually do this dolphin kick in the end and glide which gets him pretty mad.
“So during practices, he would say: ‘Chloe, no. If it was you against another person and you are head to head, you will get out-touched if you glide.’ It is because I am short (5-foot-111) and have smaller arms, too. So he tells me you need to put your hand on the wall, you cannot afford to glide. So I am working on it.”
With the SEA Games coming up, the issue on who will be there to coach Isleta during the competition was raised. Is there a chance Bowman will be in the Philippines during the biennial meet?
“I talked to Bob about it. I told him that I wanted him to come with me to the SEA Games. He said, ‘We’ll see’. He has a busy schedule but I think he may be able to come,” she said.
In the event that Bowman is unable to go, Isleta said she is fine with it and will adjust.
“I’m flexible and open-minded. It’s OK if he doesn’t come. I will be OK with any other coach,” she said.
With or without Bowman, Isleta explained why it means so much to represent the Philippines in her first SEA Games.
“I’m full Filipino and I want to go back to my roots. I love the Philippines and I believe it is important to stay true to who you are. That’s me being Filipino and that is who I am. I want to represent the country in the SEA Games and possibly the Olympics,” said Isleta.
Looking ahead and if Isleta is successful, proud mother Cecille Doromal-Waller is open to the idea of allowing her daughter to represent the Philippines in other international events. However, she cautioned that this can only happen after the first quarter of 2020.
“I’m all for it. She will probably have a busy schedule back in Arizona to finish her senior year and training in preparation for PAC-12 Conference Championships and NCAA Women’s Championships in Feb and Mar 2020. But after all that, she is all Philippines!” said Mrs. Doromal-Waller.
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