ANDERSON – Though he is miles apart from his family and his current world is restricted almost to the confines of the Anderson University campus, Colts defensive end Fili Moala is receiving messages from the outside.
Twice daily, he is getting emails or texts from family members from London, where his sister-in-law, Tumua Anae, is a goalie on a talented U.S. Women's Water Polo Team. Anae, a graduate of Southern California like Moala, is in her first Olympics and her team is one of the favorites.
For Moala, sports and competition is a family affair.
"Tumua and my wife, Jordan, played together for three years at USC, one of the top water polo programs in the nation," said Moala. "Both of them are great girls, hard workers, dedicated and ambitious. A lot of people have ambitions to go to the Olympics, but few will make it.
"Tumua is one of the few fortunate people to have the talent and skill set to be on the team, compete and represent our country. I am very proud of her."
Anae was a three-time first-team All-America selection and was a member of USC's 2010 national champion team. She helped Team USA win 2011 and 2012 FINA World League Super Final titles. Anae is the school's all-time leader in career saves and single-season saves, and she is one of only two goalies to have been named MPSF Player-of-the-Year.
"Tumua played only water polo at USC. She comes from an athletic family, one that is very serious, dedicated and driven to compete," said Moala. "Counting me, we have three athletic people in the family. Jordan, in addition to water polo, played volleyball and basketball. There are only two girls in the family, and they're both athletic.
"We poke fun and tease each other and say our children get their athletic ability from me. We argue in good fun. … We know what it takes to play at an elite level. Everyone is tired all the time (from working). Everyone wants to eat healthy food."
Moala has started 31 of 40 career appearances for the Colts, including 30 over the past two seasons. His rookie season was one of accomplishment as the Colts advanced to Super Bowl XLIV. Though his sport is rigorous and the travel takes him to prominent NFL venues, Moala notes what Anae does to excel in her craft.
"It's good to have her in the home and bounce ideas off her and see what she is going through. They train for an event that happens every four years," said Moala. "It's interesting to see Tumua's schedule. They go from here to there competing. She's probably hit eight countries in the last year or so playing in different tournaments and competitions with the national team. She has to be wary about not eating particular foods in certain countries because you might test positive for some things."
Women's water polo debuted in the Olympics in 2000. The women's team won a silver medal in the 2000 and 2008 games, while earning the bronze in 2004. Anae's team won on Monday against Hungary, 14-13. The team, playing in Group A, was tied by Spain on Wednesday, 9-9. This is a talented team that again is among the favorites.
It is a compelling sport to watch, and Moala knows the level of athleticism involved.
"We think it's hard running. Try being in an element that we're not supposed to be in, which is water, and having to stay afloat all the time while (competing). It's very grueling and difficult. I'm excited for her and proud of her. Tumua worked really hard for this."
Moala is busy in his own world, practicing about four hours a day in preparing for a new season. He always has felt familial support in his efforts and though he is driven to succeed, a small part of him would like to be a part of what is a special moment.
"I wish I could be there, but I'm doing something I love," said Moala. "I'm keeping up with her. I'm getting emails, texts and pictures. I get messages when they wake up and go to sleep. I kind of feel like I'm over there, but I'm not. Jordan and our children are there, my in-laws are there. My wife's mother and her two brothers, their families are there as well. My wife's side of the family kind of turned it into a family reunion type of event, and rightfully so. They're enjoying everything. It's almost like a once-in-a-lifetime experience."
While NFL players are held in regard by countless fans, Moala clearly is struck by the accomplishments of Anae.
"I don't know of anyone personally who has been an Olympian," said Moala. "I've heard of the greats but to say I have a family member who is an Olympian and is competing at the highest level of a sport, that's something truly special.
"For the 2008 Games, Tumua was at USC and one of her teammates made the team and won the Silver Medal. She was a bit young for the last Olympic Games. She may be in line for others, but you don't know. There may be some prodigy behind her.
"For Tumua to be there in the Olympics and to share it with her family, what an experience it is. I play a popular sport and am well-compensated for it. To see my sister-in-law to do something she truly loves and to do it for next to nothing (monetarily), it's a testament to true love for a sport. That's why I have so much love for her. I'm so very proud of her. It's surrealistic that she is there."