A Massachusetts martial arts coach is at the Olympics for the first time this year. And the fighter he’s coaching is the first-ever to represent her home country of Cape Verde in the sport of taekwondo.

A year and a half ago, on a scouting trip in Cape Verde – the country where he was born – taekwondo coach Joseph Pina spotted Maria Andrade. She’d never tried taekwondo, and didn’t really even like sports.

“Right away, my attention got right to her, because I saw the body type," Pina said. "She has the perfect body for taekwondo.”

Andrade is tall, slim, and flexible, and she’s very athletic. Pina convinced her to give it a shot, and brought her back to his gym in Abington, Massachusetts to train, while she lived in neighboring Brockton.

“So she came in February of last year, and the qualification was February of this year. So I actually had one year to get her ready for the qualification. So the training was very intense.”

Andrade managed to qualify for Rio, and Pina said they’ve been training even harder to get ready for Wednesday's competition.

“We train on Saturday, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years, because I told her, if she wants to be as good as people working out 3,4,5,6,7 years, she has to work as hard as possible just to be at that level with them," Pina said. "And that’s where she’s at right now.”

Andrade’s first Olympic fight is Wednesday morning, and she’s matched against a fighter who’s ranked second in the competition. Pina said they’re hoping for a medal. But even if that doesn’t happen, he said this experience will make Andrade even stronger and more ready for her next Olympic fight, in four years.