Childhood friends reunited as Youth Olympic athletes after 12 years
Twelve years after last seeing each other during play dates in Singapore, two girls have been reunited as athletes at the Nanjing 2014 Youth Olympic Games.
Ava Lorein Verdeflor (PHI) and Martina Lindsay Veloso (SIN) grew up as neighbours in Singapore, but when Verdeflor was three years old, her family moved. The 15-year-old artistic gymnast now lives in a suburb of Dallas, Texas in the United States. Meanwhile, 14-year-old Veloso still lives in Singapore where she qualified for these Games in shooting.
And while their meeting in Nanjing was not completely serendipitous – the families had kept in touch and knew both girls had qualified for the Games – it was not entirely expected when they did see one another again.
“I think I saw her [one day] but I wasn't really sure it was her and I would feel embarrassed if I approached the wrong person,” Veloso said. “At the same time, Ava and her mum came to my apartment twice to see whether I was around but I wasn't at the times they visited. Until one day we met in the dining hall, by coincidence.”
Verdeflor said she had been excited to reconnect with a girl who had once been a play mate of hers, but at the same time, it was like meeting a whole new person. After all, there is a huge difference between toddlers and teenagers. “I was really excited to see her but obviously I didn’t know what to expect,” Verdeflor said. “I mean, we were three years old when I last saw her, so I don’t remember much.”
But the talk was not a nervous one, Verdeflor said. She described it as “awesome” to be reunited with an old friend.
The girls’ conversation was predominantly about current events rather than their Singapore days. Verdeflor congratulated Veloso on the silver medal she won in the women's 10m air rifle competition and Veloso wished Verdeflor luck in her events.
“We were just talking about the last time [we were together] and whether either of us could remember anything,” Veloso said. “But unfortunately we couldn't.”
The two girls did, however, remember a photo that Verdeflor’s mother had taken of them when they were young – which they recreated here in Nanjing. Veloso even recreated the same big smile she had in the original. “This isn't something you see every day and it's really cool,” Veloso said. “Furthermore, one of the Olympic values is friendship and this is what friendship really means.”