North Medford alum Isaac Silafau gets in a workout at the Black Tornado track prior to leaving for the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. Silafau was selected to compete in the 100 meters for American Samoa. PHOTO BY LARRY STAUTH JR.

American (Samoa) dream

Not everyone can say that their personal trainer is an Olympian.

Clients of Isaac Silafau can.

The former North Medford High sports standout, who works at International Fitness in Medford, will get the chance of a lifetime after being invited to compete in the Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro for American Samoa.

The 25-year-old Silafau says he expects to participate in the Opening Ceremony on Aug. 5 (4:30 p.m., NBC) and to run in a 100-meter preliminary on Aug. 13.

The son of native American Samoans Peter and Mercy, Silafau was born in San Francisco before the family moved to the Rogue Valley in 1993.

American Samoa is an unincorporated territory of the United States located in the South Pacific, southeast of Samoa. It consists of five main islands and two coral atolls. It has a population of around 56,000.

Silafau and one other American Samoan runner (Jordan Mageo of California) received universality places into the Games through the International Olympic Committee's Tripartite Commission.

The IOC has worked with international federations (in this case the American Samoa Track & Field Association) to ensure that every country (American Samoa is considered a country in this case) gets some Olympic opportunities if qualifying standards are not met.

Silafau competed in a mini trial in American Samoa in November, he says. After the territory's Trials in April of 2015, Silafau's time in the 100 (which was unavailable) was third fastest out of five, wrote Deanna Fuimaono, secretary and general for the American Samoan Athletics Association, in an email.

The top two runners opted out to accept full football scholarships, Fuimaono says, setting the stage for a life-changing call to Silafau in February.

He thought it might be a joke at first, but it wasn't. Silafau and Mageo's names had been submitted for universality places, or as American Samoa National Olympic Committee office manager Herrietta Molesi puts it, as "wild cards."

"(Fuimaono) said, 'No, I'm being serious,'" Silafau says. "I was like, 'Heck yeah, let's do it!' After that I was excited. I knew it was time to start training, so I hit up my strength and condition coach, Remy Boots."

Adds Fuimaono in an email: “It took Isaac about two weeks to come around to believing he was chosen. If our ASNOC didn’t make contact with him, he wouldn’t have snapped out of the daze he was in and believe it.”

Silafau and Boots go back to their days at North Medford High, where Silafau was a wide receiver and running back and where Boots was running backs coach.

Silafau was also a versatile prep track athlete, but was never a top-five state finisher in the events he competed in (the 100, javelin, 4x100 relay, long jump and triple jump).

In college, Silafau competed in football and track and field at College of the Siskiyous in Weed, California, and later at NCAA Division II Alderson Broaddus University in Philippi, West Virginia.

At Alderson Broaddus, Silafau had career totals in two seasons (22 games) of 88 catches, 952 receiving yards, 16 carries, 104 rushing yards and three touchdowns.

It was more field than track for Silafau at Alderson Broaddus, where he earned a Great Midwest Athletic Conference outdoor title in the javelin with a throw of 47.66 meters in 2015 as a senior. He was second in the in the pole vault and third in the triple jump.

The 5-foot-9, 185-pound Silafau and Boots have been training on the tracks at North Medford and Southern Oregon University about five days a week.

"I can put it on my resume," Boots joked. “Trained an Olympian.”

Silafau says his top recorded time was 11.2 seconds while in Weed, adding that he ran a lifetime-best of 10.86 hand-timed last week.

The Trials entry mark was 10.16.

"I wasn't really the fastest growing up," Silafau says. "But I've trained hard and put a lot of effort into it. I hope it pays off."

Boots says that Silafau has worked diligently on his speed, particularly out of the blocks. They've run stadium stairs and done plyometrics.

When onlookers find out what Silafau is training for, they are amazed, Boots says.

"First of all, people are surprised," he says. "And then they are very supportive. There were some soccer kids out here and one kid said, 'What are you guys training for?' I said that he is going to the Rio Olympics. A kid turned to him and said, 'I told you!'”

Silafau and Mageo will be two of four to represent American Samoa. Ben Waterhouse (judo) and Tanumafili Jungblut (weightlifting) are the others. Silafau left on Thursday for Los Angeles, and will leave for Rio on Tuesday. The Games run from Aug. 5-21.

Excitement in American Samoa is building, Molesi says. The territory has competed in the last six Summer Games and is in search of its first medal. It had five athletes at the 2012 Games in London.

"They are pretty excited," she says. "Every Olympic year everyone is hyped up about it. Everyone wants to know who is representing us and how they got selected."

No matter how he does, Silafau already feels like a winner.

"I can say I was an Olympian," he says. "Not many people can say that."

Reach reporter Dan Jones at 541-776-4499, or email Find him online at

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