By Sydney Callis
Leader’s Training Course
Perched on the starting block at the edge of a 50-meter long swimming pool telling himself not to false start, Ching-Maou Wei waited to begin his bid for 2012 Olympic gold.
He didn’t false start. He placed third in his heat.
Representing American Samoa, Wei qualified for the 2012 Olympics in London for the 50-meter freestyle swim, where he achieved a new personal best of 27.30 seconds, placing him 51st overall.
“It was a dream come true,” the Delta Company Cadet said. “It’s always been something I’ve wanted to do before I pass away. So, actually making it was amazing.”
He wasn’t always on track to compete in the Olympics, however. Growing up in American Samoa, Wei used to swim exclusively in the ocean.
“I started swimming late because on my island, there is no swimming pool,” Wei said. “Transitioning from the ocean to the swimming pool is a big difference. You’re way more buoyant in the ocean, so it’s easier. In the ocean, I could swim 4,000 meters no problem, but it would be a really good workout in the pool.”
Training for the Olympics was different and tough, but rewarding. Taking a year off from University of Hawaii at Manoa, where he is studying marine biology, Wei intensified his training.
Still working at a local five-star hotel, Wei practiced from 6-8 in the morning, work from 3-11 p.m. and sleep and eat in between.
“I really wanted to make that cut,” he said. “It wasn’t until a year and a half before that that training really picked up.”
Rob Scanlan coached Wei during his bid for the Olympics and said the drive, determination and commitment Wei exemplifies led him to the arena.
“He’s very passionate,” Scanlan said. “That is something you can’t coach. Swimming is a hard sport, and it can be boring. His passion is what kept his drive alive. He really, really loves swimming.”
Scanlan credits Wei’s love for the water to his dedication to training as well.
“From swimming to surfing and fishing, you can never keep him away from the water,” Scanlan said.
As an added bonus for Wei, during his involvement with the 2012 Summer Olympics, Wei was selected to be the American Samoan flag-bearer during the opening ceremony.
“Out of 65,000 people, only five of us went, and I got to represent my country,” Wei said. “I was in awe, just speechless and soaking it all in.”
This summer, Wei is putting his dedication toward a different kind of training. A Cadet at the Leader’s Training Course, Wei is putting his Olympic-approach to use during his time at the course as well.
“It goes hand in hand,” Wei said. “Consistency is the most important thing. We do PT training in the morning, and you’ve got to be consistent and keep yourself physically fit and mentally tough. You lead by example.”
Scanlan said the water-based training will be a “cakewalk” for Wei, but he should be prepared for the other training done at the course as well.
“The mental toughness is what it’s all about,” Scanlan said. “He’s definitely got that.”
Although he may be busy with ROTC, school and working at a local five-star hotel, Wei said he’s still eyeing the 2016 Summer Olympics in Brazil.
“It’s a possibility,” Wei said. “I’ve got a full plate.”