Due to her busy schedule, a one-on-one interview with Akiko was difficult to set. But she took time out to e-mail her answers to questions about her Olympic experience, and her current stint as PSC Commissioner. Excerpts:
You competed in three Olympics. What was it like marching in the opening ceremonies, and which opening ceremony was the best for you?
The opening ceremonies are a grand event, nothing like it. Nothing like seeing thousands of eyes looking back at you, cheering you on. It is a "wow" moment and definitely a highlight of the Games. It's getting a bit hazy for me honestly, I think Barcelona they used a bow and arrow to light the flame. It was also pretty spectacular to see Muhammad Ali light the flame in Atlanta. All were very special in their own right.
You went up against the best swimmers in the world. How did you approach each event from a mental standpoint?
You rehearse your race before you swim-- visualize every step of the race. From the moment you step on the starting block, diving into the water, the feeling of the first 50 meters, etc. It's part of the preparation. Your coach is naturally very much involved in this process also, guiding you on how you will swim the event. You focus on what you're going to do and swim your race.
Did you have any close encounters with any of your sporting idols?
It was pretty neat to see legends like Greg Louganis, Carl Lewis, Ben Johnson, Bela Karolyi, and Kristin Otto. I took a picture with the latter.
What was your best performance in your three Olympic appearances?
Barcelona, 17th in the 200m backstroke.
In each of the three Olympics where you competed, the Philippines won a medal. Describe the mood among Filipino athletes when you found out one of your compatriots had bagged a medal.
Very proud. Elated. "They're the bomb" feeling :)
As a PSC Commissioner, what are your personal goals for Philippine sports, what needs to be done, and how far are we from being a strong sporting nation? What has caused the decline in our performance in international competitions?
I'm just relieved and thankful to see the PSC really cleaning house and doing what it's supposed to be doing-- providing programs for the people (youth, elite, women, differently-abled), making sure the national sports associations (NSAs) have legitimate budgets and programs each year and not just junket programs. It's a partnership what we're doing, working with all the stakeholders in sports and it's never easy. I pray we continue in this direction and really concretize programs such that whether or not we are there, they will go on. Stakeholders not working together in sports have been a big factor why we haven't been moving forward in the past.
(Editor’s note: Yahoo! Sports Philippines interviewed several Filipino Olympians about their Olympic experience. Each week we will be featuring at least one interview and will continue to do so until the London Olympics are over. Check back here regularly for updates.)