Cris Nievarez may have failed to reach the podium in his first ever Olympics stint, but the young Filipino rower has already exceeded expectations.
This, according to the executives of the Philippine Rowing Association (PRA) who watched on Sunday as Nievarez finished fifth in his quarterfinal heat at the Sea Forest Waterway in Tokyo.
"This will be a major learning experience for Cris," said PRA treasurer Magnum Membrere. "He's young and determined."
Nievarez was the lone Southeast Asian rower to qualify in the men's single sculls. He opened the Philippines' campaign in the Games last Friday, finishing third in his heat to advance to the quarterfinals.
Against bigger and stronger rowers in the quarters, however, Nievarez could only come in fifth with a time of seven minutes and 50.74 seconds.
Germany's Oliver Zeidler (7:12.75), Brazil's Luca Verthein Ferreira (7:14.26) and Lithuania's Mindaugas Griskonis (7:16.71) topped Nievarez’s group in the quarterfinals, advancing to the semifinal A/B.
"His performance is beyond expectations. Commendable," PRA president Patrick Gregorio said.
"(With) focused training here and abroad, Cris will really improve," he added.
Nievarez, a gold medalist in the 2019 Southeast Asian Games, said he relished his experience in Tokyo and is already looking forward to the next edition of the Games in Paris 2024.
"Malaking bagay ang experience na nakuha ko dito sa Tokyo Olympics. Sabi nga ni Sir Magnum, learning experience," he said. "Malaking dahilan ito para pagbubutihin ko pa at aasamin na makarating ako sa Paris [2024 Olympics]."
"Nakita ko na rin and mga strength ng mga kalaban at alam ko na kung anong aspects ang kailangan i-improve," Nievarez added.
Nievarez will compete in the semifinals C/D on Tuesday morning to determine his ranking.