The first Filipino – and more significantly, the first from a tropical country – to compete in the Winter Olympics sent a message of good luck to Asa Miller, who’s competing in giant slalom on Sunday at the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics.
Ben Nanasca, alongside cousin Juan Cipriano, competed also in alpine skiing in the Sapporo 1972 Games, setting the tone for Filipinos, Southeast Asians, and athletes from tropical countries to aim for the Winter Games.
Nanasca, now 68, resides in Auckland, New Zealand, and although he hasn’t followed the Winter Olympics as vividly as when he was young, he still engages in sports and still skis as a form of recreation.
“Oh, is it his second Winter Olympics? I don’t really follow [anymore] and I’m not aware of anyone now in the Philippines regarding the Winter Olympics,” he said.
“But I will challenge Asa Miller to beat my record, I hope he will.”
Nanasca’s 42nd place finish in the men’s giant slalom in Sapporo stands as the spot to beat for the 21-year-old Miller.
After Nanasca and Cipriano, Michael Teruel placed 71st in giant slalom and 49th in slalom in Albertville 1992m. Meanwhile, Miller was 17 when he ranked 70th among 110 skiers in Pyeongchang.
Nanasca googled Miller and was impressed with what he saw.
“I’ve watched some YouTube clips of Asa. He is in good form and skiing well. He’s trained hard and is very passionate about his sport,” said Nanasca, who teaches young students at the Youthtown School in Auckland on outdoor activities such as camping, kayaking, sailing and skiing. “And he’s been there before so that’s a bonus.”
“I can see the style of skiing has changed. Wider skis are now compared to the long and narrow ones in the ’70s. So hard to compare. But there’s no reason why he won’t beat my record,” he said.
“I’m rooting for him and cheer for Team Pilipinas! I wish him the very best.”
Nanasca, his wife Florengel – who hails from Dumaguete City – and daughters Karen and Alana visit their relatives in Paco, Manila, at least twice a year during the pre-pandemic.
Karen, 31, is a member of the Melbourne Ballet in Australia, while Alana, 28, also took ballet before.
Nanasca narrated that during his younger years, he was supported by the Swiss government to ski. He and cousin Cipriano were adopted by Kiwis and resided in Spain, France, and Switzerland after they left Manila in 1968.