International swimmer lives dream of swimming in U.S.

Palomar swimmer Misaki Onosue finishes first in the 1,000 yard freestyle with a winning time of 9:57.95 on March 30 against Grossmont College at Wallace Memorial pool.  Deb Hellman/Telescope

Ever since he was a little boy, Misaki Onoue dreamed of leaving Japan to study in the United States. His ultimate dream was to attend a school where he could swim, because the pool is the one place he will always feel at home, he said.

Now he is living his dream and swimming for Palomar College.

On March 30 at the Pacific Coast Athletic Conference against Grossmont, the freshman took first in the individual 1,000-yard free-style and blew past his opponent in the last length of the 500 free-style to take the No. 1 spot for the Palomar Men’s Swim Team.

“He is an animal. He works really hard,” swim teammate Andrew Thomas said. “Misaki blows past all expectations, and really has been a great asset to the team. We’re happy to have him.”

One of his coaches agreed.

“He is a great worker. He pushes the other guys and in return the guys help push him,” Assistant Swim Coach Scott Lawson added. “He really has molded into the team well. The guys just love him and his positive but competitive nature.”

Onoue first started swimming at five years old on the Nagasaki Club Swim team in Japan. His mother Naoko and father Hiroyuki got him involved in swim because of his love for the water and to help him overcome asthma.

“I’ve seen a huge improvement in my physical condition since I began swimming,” Onoue said.  “My asthma doesn’t bother me at all anymore. It’s completely gone.”

His love and talent for swim allowed him to continue the sport with his club team until junior high school. Following, graduation he was given a scholarship for swim at Kyushu High School in Fukuoka, Japan. He swam on the team for three years.

During his third year, he won first in the individual 100-yard free-style race and earned an invite to compete at Fukuoka prefecture, which is the next biggest competition for Japanese High School swimmers, according to Onoue. There he free-styled his way to another first place spot and as a result he was eligible to compete against the top contenders on the island of Kyushu, Japan.

“I placed third in that competition, and out of my five teammates, I was one of the four selected to race against my toughest opponents yet,” Onoue explained. “About 3,000 swimmers competed, and out of those swimmers I was ranked 54th. It wasn’t number one, but it was still a huge accomplishment in my swimming career.”

After he graduated high school in spring 2010, Onoue took a year off from swim to study at an English school in Japan so he could learn how to read, write and speak English.  It was at this time, that he began researching schools on the web. It was ultimately Palomar College that caught his eye because it offered his main interest: psychology, as a major and it had a swimming pool.

Because he had never actually stepped foot outside of Japan, Onoue did admit to being concerned about attending Palomar College as an international student.

“The first concern I had was: would I be able to communicate and get along with my new teammates,” Onoue explained. “Second, I was nervous because it was a new place. And third, the least of my worries, would I be able to keep up with the other swimmers since I took a year off.

But these concerns soon disappeared. After being in California for 11 months, Onoue has adjusted quite well and said that he enjoys Palomar, his new teammates and coach.

According to Onoue, Palomar’s swim team is a lot different from a Japanese team who tend to be very individual. “Oftentimes, in Japan, it’s very competitive and serious so it can get very ugly,” he said. “But here at Palomar, everyone is friendly. They’re here to improve themselves but also more willing to help and make you better. It’s much more enjoyable that way.”

Onoue also finds swimming at Palomar to be more comfortable because of the differences in pool length and coaching style. In Japan, he said the pool is 25 meters or so longer than the pool at Palomar. As a result, he said swimming distance at the school here actually feels a lot more comfortable and easier to him.

Onoue also pointed out that the Palomar coaches tend to be more helpful and available— something he didn’t have before.

“In Japan, we don’t have coaches poolside, instead we have a menu that tells us what is expected of us for the day and every now and then the coach would appear,” Onoue said. “We didn’t have a coach there to tell us if our stroke is too weak or we’re not kicking fast enough like I have witnessed here.”

For that reason, his adjustment to life at Palomar has been quite smooth. However, in the classroom, Onoue felt it was a different story, but his grades proved otherwise. He has maintained a grade point average of 3.4 in his first year as a collegiate athlete.

“I was a little nervous about my classes at first, but since I was already here, I told myself I can’t be afraid,” Onoue said. “Like swim, I just had to jump in and do it.”

In doing so, Onoue has found that art has become one of his favorite classes here at Palomar because he gets to sketch landscapes, buildings and sceneries, something he admits he always loved to do even as a kid. But math, particularly statistics Math 120, Onoue said is his least favorite of all his courses because there are so many numbers it sometimes confuses him.

As for the future, Onoue said he hopes to transfer to a four-year college with a swimming scholarship. His top two choices are Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo and Cal State, Bakersfield both of which offer what he believes to be a very good psychology program and have swimming pools where he could continue to swim.

Author: Jacqueline Coble

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