Uruguayan Nicole Frank qualified for Tokyo 2020, while her grandmother did the same in Helsinki 1940, however, World War II prevented her participation
When the Uruguayan swimming star Nicole Frank, 17, found out that she had qualified for the Tokyo Olympics, she only thought of one thing: my grandmother made it. That thought took 81 years to make.
Frank’s grandmother Angelika Rädche qualified to swim for Uruguay at the 1940 Helsinki Olympics in the 400 and 800 meter freestyle events. Rädche, who was Uruguayan, was living in Germany at the time.
Later, just a few days later, World War II broke out. The Olympics were canceled. Fortunately, she survived the war and returned to Uruguay, where she and her husband raised a family and lived a happy life. But he was never able to completely get over the fact that he didn’t compete in the Olympics.
So after Frank was born in 2004, Rädche decided to tell stories about his granddaughter.. She told him how she loved to train, how her brain always wanted more even though her body was tired, how her eyes widened with happiness when she was about to compete.
Frank hung up every word his grandmother said. He loved the water and spent hours every day in the pool. She also took gymnastics classes, her mother is a gymnastics teacher, but when she was about 10 years old, she had to choose a sport. Without thinking twice, he chose to swim. He wanted to finish what his grandmother had started in 1940.
“I loved being in the water. I loved my family’s legacy in sports. I also loved the opportunity to finish my grandmother’s dream,” he said.
His grandmother never imposed her dream on Frank or his brother, who is also a swimmer, but Frank could always feel the undercurrent of an unlived dream, of a missed opportunity.
Rädche accompanied her and her brother to training, they met and asked for every detail.
Frank would say to Rädche: “Grandma, I’m going to be for the national team soon.” And a few months later, he did just that. At age 13, he broke his first national record, in the individual 200-meter medley. By age 15, he had also added national records for the 200 and 400 meter freestyle.
But Rädche never saw Frank break those records. In January 2016, she fell ill and died at the age of 85. Frank was devastated, but the stories of her grandmother and her unfinished dream propelled her forward.
Frank had originally targeted Paris 2024 for his Olympic debut, but after breaking those national records, he realized that he could very well make the cut for the Tokyo Olympics.. He received a grant from FINA and moved to the United States to train and, in June, qualified to represent Uruguay in the individual 200-meter mix that begins Monday.
There is a good chance that he will compete in most freestyle events in Paris. A few months ago, Rädche’s favorite event, the 800-meter freestyle, also started swimming. She enjoyed the routine, the wave of exhaustion she felt after finishing. She hopes to soon compete in every event her grandmother swam, Frank said.
“It feels totally amazing that I’m here,” he said. “If Grandma knew I was here, she would laugh, she would be so happy.”
Paris 2024 was always the goal, but Frank outdid herself, which is as his grandmother, Nicole’s mother, Cecilia, put it through an interpreter.
“She didn’t do the Olympics just for herself,” Cecilia said. “He did it for the whole family, his grandmother in particular.”