Michael Phelps’ Fil-Am protege Chloe Isleta hopes to make big splash in first SEA Games participation

She would have represented the Philippine swimming team as early as four years ago, but Chloe Kennedy Anne Isleta, a Filipina based in the United States, decided to forego plans and made herself more equipped in time for her first Southeast Asian Games competition.

One of the improvements she went through was the one-on-one training she had with Michael Phelps, the most decorated Olympian of all time who won 28 medals in the greatest multi-sports show on earth.

Cecille Doromal-Waller, the mother of the US-based Pinay swimmer, wrote to FOX Sports Philippines and disclosed how Phelps helped her daughter to become a much improved and more efficient swimmer while Chloe was in her sophomore year with the Arizona State University Sun Devils.

“Michael was a volunteer coach for ASU, alongside Head Coach, Bob Bowman. Michael had personally trained Chloe one-on-one during her second year at ASU with her specialty stroke, the backstroke. Michael worked with Chloe and tweaked her strokes,” wrote Ms. Doromal-Waller.

According to Chloe’s mom, it was on that same year the Filipina tanker broke the university record for 200-m backstroke and 200-m individual medley, mainly because of Phelps implementing hip and stroke correction on the Filipina’s swims.

“In the 200 Individual Medley, the second stroke is the backstroke. So, that stroke technique tweak by Phelps also helped her backstroke leg in the 200-m individual medley,” added Ms. Dormal-Waller.

Now, the pride of Arizona State is ready for the big battle and looks forward to a homecoming of sorts where she she has a chance to make a big splash in front of the Pinoy crowd.

Isleta will be competing in the 200-m backstroke event. She qualified for a spot in the national team when she registered a time of 2:19.57, which surpassed the bronze medal time of 2:19.98 during a competition she joined in May this year at the TYR Pro Swim Series Bloomington in Indiana, USA.

“In 2015, I was going to represent the Philippine national team, but at that time, I was only in high school and I wanted to focus on getting into college first,” wrote Isleta in an exclusive online interview with FOX Sports Philippines.

“I had the qualifying times, but I felt like I was not ready and wanted to pursue college swimming first. At the end of my sophomore year of college, that was the first time I was able to meet people on the Philippine national team and it was a fun and new experience for me.”

Competing for the first time in the biennial meet, the 21-year-old Isleta is trying to manage her expectations and relish the experience of battling the best swimmers in the region.

“I feel very fortunate and excited to race one of the fastest people so I would expect a lot of racing and fast swimming. Of course, the goal would be to get best times and podium, but since this is my first time swimming at SEA Games, I just want to have fun and learn from this experience. Filipinos should expect that will give my 100% effort and that I will race hard for my country,” added Isleta.

Although she is a rookie competitor in the SEA Games, the opportunity of playing against the top swimmers in the United States and her previous campaign representing the Philippines in the Singapore meet, makes Isleta a more seasoned athlete.

“This is my first SEA Games, but it will not be my first meet representing the Philippines. My first meet that I represented the Philippines was last year at Singapore Nationals. Right now, I’m training for college swimming and SEA Games, so I’m still going to get ready for my college meets for ASU, but I am also going to taper for SEA Games,” added Isleta.

Isleta will be among the new comers competing for the Philippine swimming team and she will join several notable names in the line up, among them include Jasmine Alkhaldi, Remedy Rule, Georgia Peregrina, James Deiparine, Jonathan Cook, Miguel Barreto and Adrian Eichler, among others.

Swimming runs in the blood of Isleta.

Her mom is also into swimming while her sister, Czsarina, was also a part of the Oregon State University where she was given full scholarship. But Chloe is the one given opportunity to represent the Philippines in the SEA Games, something the family would like to cherish.

“My mom and my Ate are the only swimmers in my family before me. The person who inspired me to enter swimming was my Ate. In elementary school, she found a flyer to join a swim team. Since I am three years younger than her, I was at that age where I would copy everything she did because I have always looked up to her. I tried to join the swim team with her, but the coach said I was too young to join. So whenever my sister had practice, everyday I would swim in the small pool next to them by myself and the coach eventually let me be on the team,” added the younger Isleta.

As early as six, swimming had taken a toll on the young Isleta as most of her time would be consumed by training. Swimming had indeed taken her youth as by the time she started competing, she would spend eight to nine hours of training. But Chloe isn’t complaining as swimming has become a big part of her life.

“I started swim lessons at the age of three and joined competitive swimming when I was six years old. At the age of seven or eight , I already had a tight schedule with swimming. I would swim 8-9 hours a week. In those practices, I would focus on the details like my under waters and technique on my strokes. I realized that I wanted to join competitive swimming when I had my first meet at six years old. I realized after that meet that I loved to race and I could potentially be successful at the sport,” added Isleta.

Once Isleta realized that she wanted to pursue swimming as a career, she decided to enter a school that has a solid athletic program and Arizona State University was the chosen destination.

“I always knew that I wanted to continue my swimming career in college because I wanted to see where my swimming would be if I were to train with the best coaches in the country and ASU provided that for me,” wrote Isleta.

“Apart from the amazing coaching staff, I fell in love with the dynamic of the team. It reminded me of a family and that was an important aspect for a team to have for me in swimming. Another important reason was at that time, my mom was the only one that was working and I needed to find a college that would give me a scholarship. After talking to the coaches, I was able to get a full scholarship at ASU which I am incredibly grateful for.”

In the US, Isleta was privileged to not just compete against some of the best collegiate tankers, but was also fortunate to be guided by some of the best in the business — from Phelps, a 21-time Olympic gold medalist, to Coach Bob Bowman, who also trained the highly-decorated swimming star.

Bowman was also the coach of Isleta at ASU.

“In collegiate swimming, I remember my freshman year, ASU had a dual meet against Stanford and I raced Katie Ledecky in the 200-m backstroke at one of my home meets. It’s truly amazing to race and train with one of the fastest swimmers in the world. Since Bob Bowman is my coach, I have met and seen many Olympic swimmers that I have looked up to when I was younger and I feel grateful that I was able to race and meet them in person. One competition that I swam at that had many of the best swimmers in the world was at Olympic Trials in 2016. That was the first time I qualified for Olympic Trials and it was a fun experience to race at such a high level competition,” added Isleta.

Although she’s now living in the United States, Chloe has been able to keep that Filipino spirit with her. In fact, she grew up eating Filipino food and got introduced to the old Pinoy custom.

Chloe and the other siblings were raised and grew up in San Jose, California, according to Ms. Doromal-Waller, but their love for Filipino food had somehow kept them more attached to their Pinoy lineage. Pakbet, kare-kare and jeprox (crispy dried daing) from a local seafood market in the US, would remind them of how Filipino they are.

“I feel like even though I live in the US, I still have that Pinoy spirit in me. Both of my parents were born in raised in the Philippines and came to the states when they were 20. As a child, I was raised eating Filipino food. I would eat sinigang, kare-kare, pancit, and more. My mom, tita, and lola would also speak Tagalog around the house so it helped me and my Ate learn the language as we grew up,” wrote Isleta.

Outside of swimming, Isleta lives a normal life, but even on her free time, she cannot disassociate herself from what she loves doing most — swimming.

“My schedule revolves around swimming right now, but if I had to talk about my life outside of swimming, I would say that it’s pretty normal. I go to classes, do homework, and spend time with my family and friends. Even though swimming is my main priority, I try to do other activities that I enjoy to do. I love music and art so I decided to take a dance class at my school and I do to that twice a week. On my spare time, I also love to draw, paint, sing or play some of my instruments like my ukulele or guitar,” added Isleta, while trying to keep the balance between her career and enjoying a good life.

She admitted that she nearly lost her appetite for swimming, but Isleta has found herself more committed to the sport and consider it as a key to enjoying life. After all, swimming had given her and her family a more comfortable life.

“Swimming is an amazing sport and I have loved the sport since I have started, but it sometimes can be mentally difficult. Since I have been competitively swimming for 15 years, there was a time where I lost confidence in myself for not meeting my own and other people’s expectations,” wrote Isleta.

“At one point, I lost my love for the sport and had a difficult time training and racing at meets. However, I took a break and I remembered why I started to swim in the first place and that was to race and have fun. When I started to focus on myself and how fortunate I am to have my support system that is my family, I was able to find my love for the sport again.”

 

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