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LAST Friday, 25 men entered the lake at Hyde Park to compete in the London 2012 Olympic Men’s 10K Marathon.
A sport normally dominated by those in their late 20s to early 30s, 24 of the 25 competitors had their age average out to 27.33 years, more than 11 years older than Guam’s 16-year-old swimming sensation Benjamin Schulte.
The 6-foot-2 teenager from Tamuning completed the six-lap, 10K swimming marathon with a time of 2:03:35.1, nearly 12 and a half minutes slower than the Tunisian gold medalist Oussama Mellouli, 28, who clocked in at 1:49:55.1. The silver medal was awarded to Germany’s Thomas Lurz, 32, who clocked in at 1:49:58.5 while the bronze went to the Canadian Richard Weinberger, 22, who posted a time of 1:50:00.3.
Mellouli, the gold medalist, is 12 years Schulte’s senior and has had potentially 12 more years of training under his belt, equating to a possible three additional Olympics worth of competitive swimming.
Schulte finished his first lap with a split time of 19:09.2, exactly one minute slower than the fastest first leg split time posted by Canada’s Weinberger at 18:09.2. Slowing down considerably throughout the course of the race, Schulte’s final split time on the final leg dropped to 21:16.1, nearly 2:07 slower than his first leg posting.
Schulte could have quit. He wanted to, in fact, with two laps to go in the grueling open water marathon at Hyde Park.
No one would've blamed him. He had been swimming alone most of the day, the rest of the field leaving him far behind.
But the 16-year-old from Guam didn't want to let down his family, or his friends, or his Pacific island.
In keeping with the true Olympic ideals, he gave it his best to the very end, even when his arms were burning and he couldn't really feel his legs anymore.
Even though Schulte never advanced further than last place, the young Guamanian’s Olympic future looks bright. With proper coaching and dedication to the sport, it’s not a stretch to think that in future Olympics, Schulte will become the first ever medalist for Guam.
(With a report from The Associated Press)