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Asa Miller, the Filipino skier braving the slopes of the Winter Olympics

As the only Filipino representative in the Winter Olympics, Asa Miller is proud to carry the flag on skiing’s global stage.

Entering the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, the Philippines brought a sole representative for the slalom events—Asa Miller, who joined the Winter Olympics for the second time in his career after finishing 70th out of 110 in the giant slalom event in 2018. He was looking forward to building on the 2018 Pyongyang iteration, but the outcome was unfortunate.

But at 21 years old, the future is still bright for Miller as he continues to compete in other competitions before the end of 2022. Going through the plethora of experiences from his Winter Olympics stint, Miller reflects and shares the unique experience of pursuing skiing as a career.

Persevering through adversity

As the Philippines is a tropical country, skiing remains an unusual sport for locals to partake in. Growing up in Portland, Miller was introduced to the sport at an early age. “I began skiing at one and a half years old, and I began ski racing at eight years old,” he discloses. “My father [was] a part-time ski patroller who loves skiing, and [he] would bring me up with him to work when I was little.”

Training for skiing requires a ton of time and applicable weather conditions, but that did not hinder Miller’s determination to succeed. “I believe my main passion for skiing comes from the freedom it provides. It also allows the rider to interact with nature in a truly unique way, where there is no right or wrong way down the mountain,” he expresses. But with the sport comes the demand to have the appropriate equipment and gear which are not at all cheap. Luckily for Miller, out of their support for him, his parents were able to provide.

When Miller donned the Philippine colors in 2018, it was the first time that a Filipino competed in the Winter Olympics since Michael Teruel in the 1992 Albertville Games in France. However, It was a rigorous road for Miller in preparing for the 2022 Winter Olympics because of a minor knee injury he sustained before the pandemic, which delayed his visit to the doctor. “I was lucky that the preparations for the Olympics weren’t heavily impacted by COVID, due to skiing being an outdoor sport,” he shares.

Learning experience

Truth be told, handling the pressure at any level of competition is not an easy task—especially when athletes compete against the world’s best on the biggest stage of sports.

Throughout the history of sports, fans have come to see countless athletes in make-or-break situations that either propel them into superstardom or into a downward spiral of public shame. Skiing is no different. Miller shares that his ability to stay composed in tough situations stems from past experiences, “I was able to stay calm and [knew] how to handle the pressure of being on a world stage. Going into the giant slalom competition, I felt relaxed and was ready to commit to my [game] plan.”

Moreover, he explains that the amount of mental toughness needed to reach this stage in his career is undeniably great—especially in a sport where perfection is everything, where even the smallest of mistakes can mean not finishing the race. “It’s easy to become discouraged when struggling in the sport, and it takes extreme commitment and confidence to bring your best every day,” Miller stresses.

But the outcome of his Winter Olympic stint was not the one Miller desired. Still, the 21-year-old notes that he had acquired many lessons—ones that would encompass self-confidence. “I believe my biggest gain was learning how much I can trust myself and my abilities. While my competitions went less than stellar, I learned how to be comfortable in extremely difficult conditions and it’s already helped me with my competitions post-Olympics.”

Encapsulating his mentality moving forward, he quotes Manuel Feller, “When you are skiing, you are living the moment—just that one minute. You are completely on your own. It is your minute. Standing at the start and saying to yourself, ‘I am going to give only 90 percent’ isn’t fun.”

Making the Philippines proud

A common topic that creates division among people in the sporting community is allowing half-Filipino athletes to represent the country on the global stage. However, this was not the sole factor of Miller’s inclusion to the national team, nor was it the stage for him to prove his Filipino lineage.

Even if he was raised in the United States, Miller still decided to focus on representing his Filipino lineage. “I chose to support the Philippines to help represent my family and heritage. I chose the Philippines to help inspire more athletes to compete for the Philippines in winter sports in the future,” Miller asserts.

Introducing winter sports to a tropical country like the Philippines remains to be difficult, especially when there is little to no media coverage—even for an Olympian like Asa Miller. Similar to other sports that seek further development, exposure remains to be one of the key factors that would aid in the exponential growth of skiing in the Philippines.

Indeed it may be a tough task, but Miller remains hopeful that being the only current Winter Olympian for the Philippines will inspire more generations to come. “I hope to make a strong comeback in 2026, but time will tell if I will still be competing in four years,” he ends.

Having in mind the tough and grueling journey throughout his career, the Filipinos await the 2026 Winter Olympics with hopes of a rejuvenated Asa Miller that can lead the Filipinos atop the summit of winter sports. Who knows—maybe this time, Miller will not be the only representative of the Philippines.

By Red Bernal

By Diego Vergel de Dios

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