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US coach backs Fil-am tanker

FIL-AM swimmer Nicole Oliva (left) and American coach Allisson Beebe brim with confidence as they prepare for the SEA Games campaign in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. (Rey Bancod)

FIL-AM swimmer Nicole Oliva (left) and American coach Allisson Beebe brim with confidence as they prepare for the SEA Games campaign in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. (Rey Bancod)

by Rey Bancod

KUALA LUMPUR – Allison Beebe, coach of Rio Olympic gold medalist Simone Manuel of the United States, believes that Filipino-American Nicole Oliva has the potential to become an Olympic champion someday.

“Her love for the sport will carry her to her dreams,” said Beebe, here to guide Oliva who is making her debut in the 29th Southeast Asian Games.

Oliva is just 15 years old, a second year high school student at St. Francis High School in Mountain View, California.

Her parents, born and raised in the Philippines, got in touch with swimming officials three years ago through the Internet.

Oliva went to Manila to take part in national tryouts and passed with flying colors.

A freestyle and backstroke specialist, Oliva is set to compete in seven individual and three relay events.

Since linking up with Beebe, Oliva has improved tremendously, especially in the 400-meter freestyle, where, according to the famed US coach, she has lowered by 20 seconds.

“She’s a smart swimmer, the smartest among the 15-year-old that I handle,” said Beebe.

Asked to describe Oliva, Beebe said: “Awesome.”

Beebe said she has yet to see the start list to see where Beebe stands, but the goal this week is for her to better her times.

“I don’t care if the other swimmers do cart wheels as long as Nicole does what she’s trained to do,” said Beebe, who is an ASCA Level 5 coach and a member of the coaching staff of the Santa Clara Swim Club.

Beebe took Manuel under her wings when the future Olympic gold medalist was just 11 years-old.

After seven years of training six days a week, Manuel became the first African-American to win an individual gold medal in swimming.

Oliva, who speaks better in Cebuano than Filipino, is thrilled to see action and can’t wait to swim her first event here.

A rookie, Oliva said she does not have much expectations “as long as I swim fast.”

Oliva, who took part in the world championships in Budapest last year, plunges into action Monday as a member of the 4 x 100-meter freestyle relay squad.

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