BUENOS AIRES—Nicole Justine Marie Oliva had to forgo a mind-boggling offer from the United States to represent the Philippines in the 2018 Youth Olympic Games.
That decision made the country doubly proud on Friday after the 16-year-old figured in the finals of the women’s 400-meter freestyle against the best under-18 tankers in the world.
Oliva placed sixth out of eight finalists in the race and clocked four minutes and 16.61 seconds, definitely a surprise act for the California-based Filipina, who was seeded 18th in the event.
“I’m happy about the turnout. I just want to enjoy my experience here,” said Oliva, who, apart from the 400m, qualified in three other freestyle events—100m, 200m and 800m.
She also made it to the finals of the 200m free on Wednesday before topping her heat in the 400m early Friday in 4:16.72 to advance to the medal race.
Ajna Kesely of Hungary captured the 400m free gold medal in 4:07.14 with Argentina’s Delfina Pignatiello (4:10.40) and Marlene Kahler of Austria (4:12.48) settling for the silver and bronze.
“Making the finals is really special. We didn’t expect this, she is the first Filipina to have four QTAs (qualifying time A) in the YOG,” said Philippine Swimming Inc. president Lani Velasco, thankful for the financial support that the Philippine Sports Commission had given to Oliva. “She is the future of Philippine swimming.”
Up next for Oliva, a junior high at St. Francis School in Mountainview, California, is the Southeast Asian age group swimming championships in Cambodia in July 2019 prior to the Philippine hosting of the 30th SEA Games.