Phelps sparks renewed interest in swim classes

Daniel Remigio
Daniel Remigio
Ivy Mach
Ivy Mach
Thomas Yamada
Thomas Yamada
Kyla Lynn
Kyla Lynn
Jenna Yoshimoto
Jenna Yoshimoto

MANOA (KHNL) - Olympic fans are still talking about it. Michael Phelps and the rest of the U.S. swim team breaking records, and making history in some of the most exciting races ever seen. So, what impact does the team's success have on the sport of swimming?  KHNL News explored Oahu to find out.

It was the comeback heard around the world. Jason Lezak does the impossible, rallying from behind to help the U.S. win the 4x100m freestyle relay, beating pre-race favorites France.

"I just saw swimmers swim very fast," said Daniel Remigio, a three-year-old swimmer.

"It was very cool and fun to watch," said Ivy Mach, who is 6 ½ years old.

And of course, one man continues to smash world record after record.

"On the TV at the condo, I saw one United States guy won," said Thomas Yamada, a five-and-a-half-year-old swimmer. "I forgot the name."

His name is Michael Phelps, and he now has more gold medals than anyone in Olympic history.

Students at Leahi Swim School may be too young to know exactly what that means, but this week, more and more of them are wanting to be like Mike.

"It's totally going to boost it," said Ben Komer, the swim school's vice president. "You're gonna see every pool, public pool, private pool's going to be jam packed."

Komer, 28, helps run things here. His mom Lori started the school 34 years ago.

Komer is also a former collegiate swimmer, who met Lezak four years ago at senior nationals.

"I was kind of new to the sport and still trying to figure things out, and I just went up to him, 'Hey, how's it going? You know a friend of mine,' and started talking," said Komer. "And he was just the nicest guy. He gave me pointers, and tips."

Komer also met Phelps, who is even more impressive in real life.

"If you could build a human to be the fastest swimmer, there's Michael Phelps," said Komer. "Short legs, long torso, long wingspan and trains like no one else. He's a machine. He's amazing."

So as he was watching the historic 4x100m freestyle relay, Komer couldn't help but get emotionally involved.

"(Lezak) just kept coming up and coming up and I was just sitting there," he said. "And I got out of my chair and I was just jumping up and down, and when he finally did, and you looked at the clock, and it says America! USA! He did it! And you just, it's one of those feelings and moments in history, world record, and what else can you say. I could not contain myself. I was jumping up and down screaming and I just could not believe what I saw."

He hopes to pass on that passion for swimming to his students, like four-year-old Kyla Lynn.

"I like to swim," said Kyla.

"Why do you like to swim, Kyla?" asked KHNL.

"Because I want to, and I can swim very fast," she said.

Kyla may be the future of Hawaii aquatics, carrying on the proud tradition of Olympic swimming glory Duke Kahanamoku and others started almost 90 years ago.

"We're due," said Komer. "Hawaii is definitely due for another Olympian to come in and win gold just like Duke did."

Until that happens, these budding stars get temporary medals, dreaming of the real moment.

"I like I'm going to be excited," said six-year-old Jenna Yoshimoto. "I'm going to be like happy and run all around."

Big dreams, and infinite possibilities from the next generation of Hawaii swimmers.

The school says, usually it's the parents wanting to enroll their kids, but this week, it's the kids begging to learn how to swim.

And some of those kids could end up on the 2024 Olympic swim team.