Cris Nievarez punched his ticket to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics after the World Rowing Federation confirmed that Nievarez will be competing in the men’s single sculls in the upcoming quadriennal games.

The 21-year-old native of Atimonan, Quezon thus became the first Philippine rower to qualify for the Olympic games in 21 years since Benjie Tolentino competed in the 2000 edition in Sydney.

Nievarez qualified by virtue of performing well and reaching the semifinals of the recent World Rowing Asia Oceania Continental Qualification Regatta held at the Sea Forest Waterway in Tokyo.

This caps an amazing journey filled with hard work, determination, and a dash of good luck for Nievarez.

Nievarez grew up in Atimonan where he was always an athletic child. He competed in basketball and other various athletics events when he was in high school. Chance came when a national athlete for rowing came and saw the lanky, then 15-year-old Nievarez and saw potential in him to try out rowing.

Nievarez was brought to Quezon City where he tried out for three months. Even though it was challenging to be far away from his parents at a young age, he persevered and fell in love with the sport.

“After six months, nakita ko na na may potential ako kasi medyo tumatalo na ako ng mga senior, yung mga nauna sa akin dito sa rowing kaya sabi ko may potential ako dito kaya mas minahal ko yung rowing”, Nievarez said.

(After six months I saw my potential because I started to beat the senior rowers sometimes that’s where I saw I have potential to compete and that made me love rowing more)

Since then Nievarez has been competing in rowing competitions all around the world including Thailand, the United States of America, and Austria. Nievarez’s ultimate achievement before garnering the Olympic berth was earning gold in the 2019 South East Asian Games.

On the Olympic berth, Nievarez recalls the shock and joy of qualifying. He says that they knew there was a chance with only one boat per country available in qualifying. It took a while for everything to sink in as reporters rushed to interview the latest qualified Olympian.

“Pagkatapos ng mga interview nakahiga na ako, tsaka ko lang naisip na Olympian na ako. Ang laking responsibilidad nito kase kailangan talaga magpakita ka ng magandang resulta. After 20 years ng paghihirap ng rowing sa bawat training natuldukan yung kampanya namin sa olympics. Isang karangalan po.”, said Nievarez.

(After all the interviews as I was lying down, the thought that I’m an Olympian sank in. It’s a big responsibility as I need to show good results. After 20 years of training by Philippine rowing our campaign for the Olympics finally bore fruit. It’s an honor)

At 21 years old, Nievarez certainly isn’t an old hand in Philippine rowing but that doesn’t stop him from being hopeful for the sport he fell in love with. He says that by qualifying for the Olympics, he hopes that more people will learn about rowing. Nievarez also says that the grassroots program is growing with programs in Tarnate, Cavite and in Bulacan.

Rest assured, Nievarez is another great hope for the Philippines to attain that elusive gold medal. He is sure to get all the support he needs to paddle his way to that goal.

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