Four Tongan swimmers have won hearts – and a special award – at the AIMS Games in Tauranga.

The popular Ocean of Light Academy team is being called "Pool Runnings" after the Jamaican bobsleigh team who competed at the 1988 Winter Olympics, inspiring the film Cool Runnings.

The Tongans train six days a week at home – in an outdoor hotel pool and a makeshift 50m ocean facility at a naval base. They're coached by their parents, who are guided by YouTube videos.

Two of the team made finals at AIMS this week, and all four recorded personal best times.

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Vaoahi Afu (11), Koti Uhi (12), Saia Day (13) and Keli Langi (12) were also awarded the ACC Sport Smart medal on Tuesday night at BayWave in Mount Maunganui.

The special award is given to the team or individual that has the best spirit, fair play and respect for their teammates/and or opposition, coaches and referees.

"The whole team swam exceptionally well over both days, with all swimmers achieving new PBs (personal bests)," Helen Williamson, AIMS swimming meet manager, said.

"I was impressed with how they carried themselves while at the pool ... they were always attentive, respectful and courteous and very appreciative."

Saia Day (left) and Keli Langi with their ACC Sport Smart medals. Photo / AIMS Games
Saia Day (left) and Keli Langi with their ACC Sport Smart medals. Photo / AIMS Games

She said she also awarded the medal to the team's Tauranga hosts for their unwavering support during the swimming competition.

"They were a delight to have at the pool."

Saia Day and Koti Uhi both raced in finals on Tuesday.

Day finished 8th in the 13-year-old boys 50m breaststroke, with a time of 39.83 (a new personal best).

Uhi finished 6th in the 50m breaststroke, 8th in the 50m backstroke and 9th in the 100m breaststroke (all 12-year-old boys).

He also finished 9th in the 200m breaststroke and recorded personal best times in all four events.

Koti Uhi swimming in the 100m breaststroke final on Tuesday night. Photo / AIMS Games
Koti Uhi swimming in the 100m breaststroke final on Tuesday night. Photo / AIMS Games

Keli Langi was 1st reserve for the 12-year-old boys 50m freestyle final but was not needed.

Williamson said it was fantastic to have an international presence at the swimming meet.

"The qualifying times for the Anchor AIMS Games swimming event are tough. The fact that they qualified with the facilities they have – no proper pool and no full-time coach is a huge achievement in itself.

"I hope they travel back to Tonga with a sense of achievement and pride in what they have done at this meet. We would love to see them at next year's event."

The Tongan swimmers, (l-r) Saia Day, Keli Langi, Koti Uhi and Vaoahi Afu. Photos / AIMS Games
The Tongan swimmers, (l-r) Saia Day, Keli Langi, Koti Uhi and Vaoahi Afu. Photos / AIMS Games

The four Tongan athletes and five of their family members have been staying with three households on Grenada St in Pāpāmoa.

They arrived in Tauranga last Friday afternoon and planned to do some sightseeing for the rest of this week.

It will be their first chance to relax since arriving in New Zealand.

Last week was spent in Auckland, where a local swim coach named Jane Logan offered to train and accommodate them for free ahead of the AIMS Games.

The team stayed at Logan's house and trained every morning and afternoon – mainly focusing on diving and turning. The pools they train at in Tonga don't have starting blocks.

It was also a chance for the four swimmers to get professional coaching.

In Tonga, their parents are their coaches.

"We're just looking on the YouTube and stuff. And if anyone comes to Tonga and they've been swimming before, we just ask them to help," Kilisitina Uhi, mother of Koti, told the Bay of Plenty Times earlier this week.

On Wednesday, the visitors enjoyed some fish and chips at Pilot Bay in the Mount.

Read more: Tongan contingent dive right into AIMS Games