Seekonk Siblings Representing Cape Verde in Tokyo Olympics
Troy and Jayla Pina of Seekonk are hardly wet behind the ears when it comes to amateur swimming competitions, but in a historic first, the brother-sister swim duo will be heading to Tokyo on Saturday, July 17 to represent Cape Verde, which has never entered an Olympic swim team before.
Though neither of them have ever taken a dip in the sky-colored waters of the Archipelago nation, their mother was born there, which makes them eligible to represent Cape Verde in the Summer Games.
"Being from America and swimming for Cape Verde is definitely different, especially when we travel to places like Africa and swim at African championships," Troy Pina told reporters. Troy, 22, is a South Kingstown, Rhode Island police officer who will compete in the 50 freestyle on July 30.
Jayla, 16, a senior at Seekonk High School, will compete with other world-class athletes in the 100 breast stroke, is buoyant about taking the plunge on July 26, as Cape Verde's first-ever female Olympic swimmer.
"So, the opening ceremony is July 23, which is the exact date of my birthday," she said. "It's like I'm getting a big birthday present. I can't wait to see how it's going to go."
Both are quick to credit their family's support, disciplined practice and years of training to get them to this point. While the dynamic siblings take the 15-hour flight to Tokyo, their family, friends and relatives around the SouthCoast will be watching at home, because of a sudden spike in coronavirus cases in Tokyo that will keep Olympians' families from attending the games.
While local athletes that represent Team USA get a lot of the headlines, not a lot of people are aware that there are SouthCoast athletes representing other countries in the Olympics, too. When asked, players and attendees at the Burgo Basketball Tournament in Dartmouth had no idea that there was a brother-sister duo from our area making Olympic history.
"Are you serious? That's unbelievable, man!" said the father of one player, who declined to give his name. "I'll tell my friends to watch. It's important to support the Cape Verdean relationship."
The SouthCoast is home to one of the most vibrant Cape Verdean communities in America, that will for the first time in history have Cape Verde represented in the swimming events at the 2021 Olympics. We will be watching, cheering and rooting for the go-getting Pinas.