Provided is a short profile of Ms. Maipi:
I was born in Chuuk, and attended HeadStart in Lukunor, and St. Cecilia and SDA on Weno. I’ve had the opportunity to live and go to school in Saipan, Oregon and Washington. As kids, my siblings and I played lots of games together and with our cousins wherever we lived. Organized sports as well as playing games were a big part of my life growing up as we played softball, baseball and volleyball.
We moved to Washington State a few years ago, and I started my freshman year at Highline High School 3 years back. I had an interest in joining a third sport in the winter time, and wanted something that would get me in better shape (as I was overweight at the time) and that fit me, skill and strength-wise. Wrestling topped the list as the most physically demanding as well as mentally challenging of the available sports. I joined and went to state my second year, as well as got 2nd in state for freestyle wrestling. I was then asked by Clark Graham (the secretary to the Oceania Wrestling Championships, and director of Chuuk Wrestling ) to go to Australia to represent the FSM in the upcoming wrestling event in Sydney, Australia where we would be competing against Australians, New Zealanders, Polynesians and Micronesians. Before I knew it I was flying over to Sydney on a plane. The event was amazing! Never had I met other Micronesian wrestlers, and they were a great group of people who I learned a lot from. I was able to compete in the Junior and Cadet category and was awarded the gold for both. I’m very proud to have had the opportunity to represent the FSM in this event, and look forward to compete in more in the future and accrediting more honors to my country.
I’m currently in my junior year but take classes from South Seattle Community College where I made the Dean’s List my first quarter, and hope to maintain or even improve on that status. There are several other activities I participate in outside of school and sports such as performing with Red Eagle Soaring Theater group, and I have made a couple of trips to build homes in Mexico during the summer.
Nicole Maipi= NM
TFB: What are your future goals as a wrestler and your goals as a student?
NM: It is my plan to improve my skills by continuing to wrestle freestyle here where I live, as well as in my high school team. I’m hoping to participate in the Micro Games as well as the Olympic qualifier next year as well. In the long run I’d like to be able to help with the wrestling program back in Chuuk when I’m able to fit into that role as an adult. My goals as a student are to continue to take classes at South Seattle Community College so that I will be able to get my Associated Arts Degree the same time I graduate from high school, and then transfer more easily to a four year university somewhere in the Pacific. Japan has been of high interest to me because of its great female wrestling program.
TFB: What is your weight class? Do you compete in an age group? How many competitions have you participated in, and how did you place in all of them?
NM: That’s a little bit of a trick question since my weight class seems to change all the time. Currently I weigh 145 pounds placing me in the 145 lb class for high school collegiate wrestling and US freestyle. For international freestyle I would be in the 67 kg/147.4 lb weight class. I currently compete in the Junior category. I’m not completely sure how many tournaments I’ve been in, well over 15 since Freshman year, but the big ones would be Regionals and Leagues for my high school. At Regionals unfortunately I was only able to place 2nd because of a dislocated shoulder in the final championship match, and wasn’t able to perform to my full potential at state the week after. At Oceania Championships I placed first in Junior and Cadet categories.
TFB: Can you qualify for this year’s London Olympics?
NM: Not this year I’m only 17 right now and a Junior, so age wise I don’t qualify any further for Olympic level competition since they only compete at the Senior level which is 18 and older. Next year I hope to qualify again at the Oceania Olympic qualifier, move onto the next qualifier, and hopefully prove myself there worthy to represent the FSM in the Olympics.
TFB: Do you have a personal trainer?
NM: I do not have a personal trainer. I really don’t know anyone in the area who does the international style of freestyle wrestling so it’s been difficult trying to find one. I think I’m lucky enough though to have many very experienced and skilled coaches and senior wrestlers who have been great at teaching and motivating me as well as instilling discipline in me, which I consider the most important trait of a good wrestler.
TFB: How do you balance your training and competition with school?
NM: Well for now all I do is my regular high school practices after school during the winter sports season, and doing club freestyle in the spring. So my schedule isn’t too terribly busy this year since I’ve cut out volleyball and softball. And in preparation for the Australia tournament I went ahead and signed up for online classes, so it’s really been a lot easier to do work at home every day rather than traveling to the college. So it’s been balanced out pretty well.
TFB: Do you have a diet plan? If yes, what is it? Does Micronesian food fit into your diet plan?
NM: I don’t really have a diet plan, per say, since I’m not great with numbers, or notes. I pretty much stick to a few basic rules, and stay in tune with how my body feels. Since the last two years I’ve been focused on losing so much weight, I pretty much ate one meal a day, usually a salad, with a few snacks in between, making sure to drink water at least 7 times a day. I did have to give up rice completely because of the starch, but I did get to enjoy a lot of fish because it was lean and gave me lots of energy. This year and next my diet will have to change to focus more on muscle mass by consuming more protein, but on the whole it should remain pretty limited.
TFB: Can you take us through a regular day of training? What are your routines and methods?
NM: No trainer, but on my own time I will do a lot of running around my town to stay in better shape and have better stamina. In practice we also do a lot of running, stretching, then hard wrestle while learning moves in between bouts. At the end of practice we always check weight. Each day it’s nice to have in the back of your mind the idea that you go just a little bit harder than you did the day before to build on what we do each day.
TFB: Do you know any other young Micronesians in your age group who are wrestling?
NM: I know of only one other Micronesian who wrestles at a neighboring high school. He’s a really good wrestler from Guam, and he used to compete in California. Other than him I really can’t think of other Micronesians. I know a few Polynesians who also excel in wrestling. It’s unfortunate because I think wrestling is a sport islanders were made for.
TFB: How are you getting all your funding for your training, travels and other expenses?
NM: All funding was provided by family friends and at fundraising events. We had the chance to raise money at a local powwow here in Washington (as I represent my Native American heritage as well as my Chuukese) and we raised a large portion of my funds there. I’m very grateful to the people who supported me on my trip to Australia.
TFB: What is your most memorable wrestling moment?
NM: At a tournament here in Washington last year was what I remember the most. I was on the bottom of a girl, ready to get turned over, and I felt like I had lost all energy fighting on the bottom. But then I stared at my purple and gold nail polish I had put on the night before to represent my high school’s team colors, and realized if I lost it would not just be my loss it would affect my team’s score also. So I pushed my way back up and literally screamed and pinned the other girl.
TFB: What goes through your mind and what emotions do you feel when it is just you and your opponent on the mat?
NM: I try to sum up my opponents before we wrestle, trying to figure out what the stronger parts of their body are. Also before I felt a lot of nervous energy, but now all I focus on is the idea that I am better, and that I’m stepping onto the mat to pin this opponent. All my wins have been by pins, and that’s what I believe in. Points always come second. It sounds harsh to have to repeat in your mind your opponent is worse than you, but for a wrestler a lot is dependent on your mindset. If you think there’s a chance you can lose, then you just allowed yourself to lose in your mind already, making it a lot easier to lose on the mat. Also your confidence inside will show on the outside, intimidating your opponent making them wonder themselves if they could lose is a huge psychological advantage. You have to be cocky.
TFB: Do you think of wrestling as a possible career? If not, what would be the alternative?
NM: I never realistically thought I could turn wrestling into a career. Even for men it is incredibly difficult to become professional wrestlers, and it’s near impossible for any woman to. I’ve always had an interest in teaching young children as a career because it’s something I enjoy doing, and there’s always a demand for teachers back home. I’d like to somehow assist in coaching wrestling too later on in life.
TFB: Do you plan on returning to F.S.M. to teach wrestling or do any other service?
NM: I would love to help the wrestling program in the F.S.M. and any other services that people will ask me to do. I feel like I have a lot to share, and the children of Chuuk could be to wrestling, what the children of Samoa are to football. I think there’s a lot of potential that is already starting to develop in Chuuk thanks to the hard work of a lot of people and I’d love to assist.
TFB: What are the challenges you face as a growing athlete and as a young Micronesian living abroad?
NM: Well I haven’t faced too many challenges based solely on where I’m from. I’m lucky to live in such a diverse area of Washington, and a diverse heritage many times is an advantage for a student. As an athlete I don’t face many problems either. Other than the distance problem I experienced with the Australia trip. I had more distance to cover to reach the competition than most people, and I wasn’t able to train in Hawaii with some of the others because of costs.
TFB: If you weren’t wrestling, what would you be doing?
NM: I really am not sure. Probably doing what I used to do before wrestling which was go to class, hang out with my friends, then go back home. Wrestling has given me lots of skills and confidence to do other activities now in my life, and to get out of my comfort zone to succeed in other things like my Native American acting group I’m with.
TFB: What is your hobby?
NM: I enjoy watching movies with my family, going out occasionally with my very best friend, or coming up with recipes, and things for other people is really fun even though I can make my mom go crazy with the mess I make. I also like drawing.
TFB: Has your culture ever interfered with your sport?
NM: I’m a very modest person, and I think a lot of that has to do with how I was taught and raised as a little kid back in the islands, so there have been a few exercises we do in practice that I’ve just not been able to feel comfortable doing that requires girls and boys to be in compromising positions, but other than that it’s not really a problem for me.
TFB: Do you ever think about giving up? If yes, whom do you look to for motivation and inspiration?
NM: Yes I have. And these thoughts are very damaging particularly in wrestling, so it’s something every wrestler has to let go of completely as well as the thought they could possibly lose. Now I really don’t ever think about giving up, it’s just something I never do, but back in my first year whenever I thought negative thoughts like this I would always think back to my team and the fact that I’m representing them as well as me, and the team as a whole is more important than my suffering for a few minutes, and that always brought me back up. If my family is there I will think of how they would have wasted their time coming just to watch me lose.
TFB: You have been living away from the islands for so long. How do you get in touch with your Chuukese culture?
NM: Well I think culture is part of your soul and mind, and it’s not something that fades or goes away with time or distance. Sure people can forget customs and aren’t taught some traditions, or in my case I was never taught either of my languages but this doesn’t mean I’m more or less of my culture. In America barely anyone of Native ancestry speaks their language anymore, but we all consider ourselves proud Natives. Both my Native American Apache culture and my Chuukese and Mortlokese culture are who my family and I are.
TFB: Do you have a ritual before every match? For example, some people pray before their competitions.
NM: I don’t really have any type of ritual other than stretching my legs a lot, and try to warm up my muscles by working a little bit to make sure I’m loose. I just continually look over at my opponent, sum them up in my mind, come up with a few basic moves I think will help to take them down, and then let the rest happen from there. I will think of all the people I’m there to represent be it my family, team or in the case of Australia an entire country.
TFB: You are very young, but very bright, experienced and accomplished, what piece of advice can you share with us?
NM: I would say that the difficult goals and accomplishments are always the most fulfilling, so don’t be afraid to look like a fool, or go against others expectations to go after your dreams.