Many are surprised whenever the Philippines, being the tropical country that it is, sends athletes to the Winter Olympics, like when figure skater Michael Martinez became the first figure skater in Southeast Asia to qualify for the Winter Olympics in 2014.
It may be rare for the Philippines to send athletes in the Winter Olympics, which is historically dominated by Northern and Western European countries, but for the past three Olympics (Sochi, 2014; Pyeonchang, 2018; Beijing, 2022) Filipinos have been proudly represented on the global stage.
This year, 21-year-old Filipino-American alpine skier Asa Miller is the Philippines’ sole representative to the Beijing Winter Olympics in China, which will be held from Feb. 4 to 20.
Miller is no neophyte in the Olympics, in fact, this will be his second time to represent the country.
It was in Pyeongchang, South Korea in 2018 when Miller made his Olympics debut. There, he finished 70th out of 110 competitors in the men’s giant slalom event.
“Waving the flag in the opening ceremony (in Pyeongchang) was one of the greatest moments of my life,” Miller told Olympics.org.
Miller will once again take on the task of being the Philippines’ flag bearer during the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics’ parade of countries.
Early introduction to skiing
Born in Portland, Oregon, Miller first experienced skiing when he was 1 1/2 years old with the help of his father Kelly. His mother, Polly Bisquera who hails from Santa Cruz, Manila, also took up the sport and did it well.
Miller, who holds dual citizenship, entered ski school when he was little and it didn’t take long before his father signed him up to his first race when he was only six years old. And the rest, as they say, is history.
Prior to debuting in the Olympics, Miller was part of Oregon-based ski teams and competed internationally at the 2017 Junior World Championships in Sweden. He once shared with the Cardinal Times that he “didn’t do so well” at the world championships but took it as a learning experience and considered it an opportunity to compete in a world event.
His hard work paid off and he eventually qualified for the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics.
Road to the Olympics
Miller’s first bid in the Olympics was no walk in the park as it posed many challenges. First, he needed to balance his time between school and training. With this, Miller wasn’t able to focus on training like professional athletes did. But with his determination to achieve his goals, he religiously trained during weekends in ski resorts in Oregon.
In addition to that, preparing for the Olympics required a lot of money—from travel expenses, equipment to race entry fees. To cover the expenses of his Olympic journey, Miller and his family set up a GoFundMe page.
“The road to qualification has not been easy, I've faced many frustrating days and have learned a lot in the process. Over the last year and a half, I've been refining my mental and skiing skills, helping me respond to mistakes and challenges. These life lessons are valuable and are applicable on and off the race course,” wrote Miller, who also posted an update at one point and said they lowered the goal amount as he received support from the Philippine government and Intel.
When he made it to Pyeongchang, Miller took on the slalom and giant slalom, where skiers compete to be the fastest down a course of gates or sets of poles. Miller finished 70th out of 110 competitors.
Four years after his Olympics debut, Miller once again met the minimum qualification to get in this year's competition by surpassing the 160-point threshold set by the International Skiing Federation.
His qualification in the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics makes him the first alpine skier from the Philippines to compete in two Winter Olympics.
Miller, now a sophomore at Westminster College in Salt Lake City, Utah, hopes to improve from his last performance in the Olympics.
“I feel like I have a better understanding of how to deal with the pressure, knowing that everybody is watching and that I can hopefully relax through it this time around and just do what I know I need to do,” he said in an interview with Olympics.org.
He added, “I’m competing the GS and the slalom, so that should be really fun and I just hope to display my best skiing and represent the Philippines the best I can.”
Miller will hit the slopes for his men’s giant slalom event on Feb. 13, and the slalom on Feb. 16.
For his bid in this year’s Olympics, Miller received support from the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) and the Philippine Olympic Committee.
William Ramirez, chairman of the PSC, said the commission gave P3.3 million to fund Miller’s Beijing campaign according to a STAR report. He also commended Miller’s parents for “raising their own funds and being self-sufficient.”
Inspired to inspire
“I just told her that what she did was hugely motivational, and I hope I can follow it up well,” he told Olympics.org.
As he joins the ranks of Filipino alpine skiers who made it to the Winter Olympics—Juan Cipriano and Ben Nanasca (Sapporo, 1972), and Michael Teruel (Albertville, 1992)—Miller hopes he serves as an inspiration for the next generation of Filipino skiers and snowboarders, take on his third Olympics and perhaps make history by clinching the country’s first medal in the Winter Olympics.