SOL23: Global journey to gold: Tasi Limtiaco reveals how he brought home FSM’s first swimming medals

Tasi Limtiaco won the first Pacific Games swimming medals for Federated States of Micronesia at Sol2023 – three golds and a silver. Photos: Micah Alvince, Pacific Games News Service

Tasi Limtiaco’s extraordinary global journey in swimming has taken him from a tiny atoll in the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) to Guam, Japan, Thailand, USA and now the gold medal podium at the Sol2023 Pacific Games in Honiara.

Limtiaco is bathing in golden victory at Sol2023 after winning not one but three gold medals, creating history for FSM by bringing home their first swimming medals.

Across the five-day swimming competition at Sol2023, Limtiaco won gold in the men’s 200m breaststroke, 50m breaststroke and 100m breaststroke, plus silver in the men’s 400m individual medley.

After coming off the podium for his third gold he told the Pacific Games News Service: “Honestly, I almost broke down in tears after the event. I was a little bit emotional there, but I managed to pull it together.

“I’m just really proud to do this for my country. That’s three golds in one Pacific Games. Our first ever three golds and I’m just happy to take that away.”

The 29-year-old’s story, started on Polowat atoll in the province of Chuuk, FSM, where he was born.

“Obviously being born on a really small island, I had a natural affiliation to the water, you know being surrounded by water all the time,” he said.

At six years old, he was introduced to swimming by his dad in Guam, where the family had relocated, and he joined his first swimming clubs.

“My dad started me swimming at the age of six down in Guam when we moved out there, and I started swimming at Terakido swim club and then moved over to Tsunami swim club,” he said.

Limtiaco never thought that swimming could take him far but his talent in the water and hard work earned him opportunities around the world.

“I got a full scholarship to Japan at a high-level sports school, I was also on the FINA (international aquatics federation) development scholarship, which let me train in Thailand for three years, so I got to train with a lot of international people as well, just people from all over the world and that made me great connections.

“It broadened my view on swimming not just training under one coach for a long time, but I’ve trained with Japanese coaches, Russian coaches, and American coaches.

“It has been kind of a bumpy ride, I never thought swimming would take me this far, but it has gotten me here and I’m really glad where it has taken me,” he told the Pacific Games News Service.

Limtiaco’s swimming journey currently lands him in San Diego where he trains with the Coronado Swim Association – Team Elite.

Humble in all his victories, Limtiaco said that his inspiration to keep swimming is the young kids in FSM and, as much as he enjoys winning, his ultimate goal is bigger than more golds for himself.

“My goal right now is not to win a gold medal at the Olympics. It’s to create a pathway and create opportunities for those kids back there so that 20 or 30 years down the line, we will eventually have a Federated States of Micronesia gold medallist stand on the Olympic podium. That’s my ultimate goal.”

His message for young aspiring swimmers is to never give up.

“This is for kids who come from small places, don’t ever give up. We might come from small places, but we can do big things.

“The island that I was born on was maybe like five miles long and I’m standing here right now, I’ve competed in the Olympics so yeah, just keep pushing through. There’s nothing more satisfying than seeing all your hard work pay off.”

His secret to success is also simple.

“There’s really not much of a secret. In practice I just work my butt off, and I try and keep myself happy.

“And I enjoy practices (training). I know especially in sports, some people don’t want to go to practices some days, but I look forward to it every single day. It’s kind of my happy place so I would say keep yourself happy and keep doing what you do,” he said.

“I love swimming, it has been a part of me and shaped who I am. It has definitely helped me get places that I never thought I’d be, so I love it so much! I’ve never considered it like work or anything.”

As is common to ask athletes at the Pacific Games who they would like to dedicate their medal(s) to, Limtiaco had a tough time answering this question, having won three golds.

“I would say my dad. He has been a big help. It’s tough to pick between my dad and my mum but I think since my dad started me off on my journey I definitely want to say to him that if he hadn’t gotten me started, I wouldn’t be here,” he said.

The journey of Tasi Limtiaco and swimming for FSM does not end yet.

Reflecting on his time in Honiara for the Pacific Games, he said: “Everyone has been so accommodating, and they’ve been so kind even at the back, just walking in they always asking me what I need. I have enjoyed my stay here thoroughly and I wish I could stay a little bit longer.”

His international swimming career will continue at the World Championships in Doha in February, where he will proudly represent FSM again.

By Melissa Velvel Fare, Pacific Games News Service