Guam Athletes presented Olympic Scholarships for Rio 2016 Games

With less than five months remaining until the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, Guam athletes have ramped up their preparation for the prestigious event.  Several athletes continue to pursue their goals of qualifying for the quadrennial showcase as they compete in Olympic qualifying events being staged in different parts of the globe.

To assist our athletes who are preparing rigorously for their qualifying events, the Guam National Olympic Committee (GNOC) awarded five athletes the Olympic Scholarship for Athletes Rio 2016.  The scholarships are an integral program of the International Olympic Committee’s Solidarity program.  These scholarships were presented during a ceremony held at the GNOC headquarters in Maite. 

The objective of the Olympic Scholarship for Athletes Rio 2016 is to assist elite athletes nominated by their respective National Olympic Committee in their preparation and qualification for the Games of the XXXII Olympiad, Rio 2016, with a particular focus on athletes and NOCs with the greatest needs. 

The Olympic Scholarship program offers NOCs the possibility to obtain financial and technical assistance for a limited number of notable athletes who are training and competing at Olympic Qualifying events for a chance to qualify for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games in August.

The GNOC Executive Board reviewed the list of nominated athletes based on merits, possibility of qualifying for the Olympic Games, consultation with National Sport Federation representatives and qualifying sports named under this program.

According to President Rick Blas, “GNOC was successful in obtaining IOC Olympic Solidarity approval for these scholarships.  The five athletes will receive a monthly stipend inclusive of assistance in paying for air fare, competition related qualifying activities, room and board, and other incidentals.”  The five athletes and their respective sport are: 

  • Raina Taitingfong (Canoe)
  • Jagger Stephens (Swimming)
  • Benjamin Schulte (Swimming)
  • Mia-Lahnee Aquino (Wrestling)
  • Joseph Lopez, Jr. (Wrestling)


Four of the five recipients were on hand during the presentation.  Blas was able to connected with Schulte via a surprise long distance phone call, waking the Pacific Games double gold medalist swimmer from his sleep in Rhode Island. 


On behalf of the GNOC Board, Team Guam Chef de Mission Joey Miranda III congratulated all recipients of the scholarship stating, “We are hoping that the scholarships presented today will propel our elite athletes to the next level as they continue their pursuit in qualifying for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.”

Wrestler Joseph “Joey” Lopez Jr. expressed his gratitude for the scholarship after the presentation. When asked what receiving this scholarship means to him, he said “I’m at a loss for words, filled with joy and appreciative for the support from GNOC.  This is going to help me with everything, taking the burden off my shoulders of fundraising.  Now I have a laser focus on qualifying for Rio 2016.  I’ve been doing this a long time and my career is coming full circle.”

Canoeing’s Raina Taitingfong embraced the moment saying “It’s a blessing, an amazing opportunity that I can’t believe I actually received.  It’s one of those things, you talk about, hope and pray for.  And now, I’ve actually been given this opportunity.  I’m humbled an excited to represent my island if God wills it.”

Blas also emphasized to the group that the presentation of scholarships does not preclude all our other Team Guam Olympic aspirants as they continue their quest to qualify for the Games.  GNOC continues to monitor all nominees presented by the National Federations.


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