SEEKONK, Mass. (WPRI) — Troy and Jayla Pina made history in Tokyo as the first swimmers to ever represent Cape Verde at the Olympics.
Upon returning home, the siblings from Seekonk spoke to 12 News about the experience and what it meant to represent their community and their mother’s native country.
“It’s unexplainable. I mean, you’re on the biggest platform in the world competing,” Troy said.
“It was just an awesome experience, you know, and something that I’m going to keep in my memory forever,” Jayla added.
Troy finished second in his heat for the 50-meter freestyle and 58th overall.
“I just feel complete,” he said. “I just got to compete on the biggest stage in the world, represent my country, Massachusetts, Rhode Island … it was awesome.”
Jayla placed third in her heat and 40th overall in the 100-meter breaststroke.
“It’s awesome to be able to represent Cape Verde,” she added. “To put the name out there for such a small country is definitely amazing.”
The opening ceremony was on Jayla’s 17th birthday, and as if that didn’t make it special enough for her, she was given one of the greatest honors an athlete can receive: she was chosen to be one of the country’s flagbearers.
“I literally did not see that coming, and it was just altogether awesome and I can’t even put the words together to explain how great it was,” Jayla said. “It was definitely a big moment for me and I definitely felt the pressure.”
The siblings said one of the most memorable parts of the journey was building friendships along the way.
“When everyone’s done competing, it’s more of a hangout, getting to meet people again from different countries and more relaxed,” Troy said.
“Once you’re out of the competition pool the vibe totally changes,” Jayla recalled. “Everybody is friends with each other, it’s just amazing to be there.”
Now that the two are home, they’ve already got their sights set on the next competition. Troy said he hopes to represent Cape Verde in the African nationals, followed by the next Olympics in Paris.