Petecio, Obiena move a step toward another Olympic gold

Tokyo—Two Filipino athletes from different disciplines started on the wrong foot, but finished with a flourish, assuring the Philippines of a silver medal in one and a chance to go for the gold in the other at the Summer Olympic Games here on Saturday.

Behind in all the scorecards of the boxing judges after the first round, Nesthy Petecio picked up the aggression several notches in the last two rounds to hammer out a 4-1 win against Italy’s Irma Testa in the women’s feather (54-57kg) semifinal boxing match at the Kokugikan Arena.

Petecio, Obiena move a step toward another Olympic gold
(Right) Nesthy Petecio (red) pummels Italy’s Irma Testa in the women’s feather (54-57kg) semi-final boxing match during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at the Kokugikan Arena on July 31, 2021. AFP
Ernest John Obiena, on the other hand, bucked two foul jumps and leaped 5.75 meters to advance to the finals of the men’s pole vault at the Tokyo National Stadium.

Petecio trailed by 9-10 in the scorecards of all of the five judges after the first round, but none from the Philippine Team felt the need to panic.

“Hindi po ako na-down noong sinabi na nilang lamang si Testa. Nagdasal po ako at sinabi ko na para sa akin ito, ibibigay niyo ito, Lord,” a smiling Petecio told Filipino sports scribes at the mixed zone.

Like a switch that was finally turned on, Petecio was a completely different fighter in the succeeding rounds as she attacked the taller Italian from all angles and connected with haymakers that rattled her foe, the champion of the 2021 Box-Am Tournament in Castellon de la Plana, Spain.

The electrifying show in the second allowed Petecio to obliterate Testa’s advantage in a flash with her own 10-9 score from all the judges, setting up the stage for a winner-takes-all Round 3.

“Noong mga sumunod na rounds, lagi po akong lumalapit, pinapasok ko po talaga siya. Kinukuha ko po siya sa speed, sa lakas ko, kasi alam ko na mas malakas po ako sa kanya,” said Petecio, who continued the calculated aggression in the third.

Four judges saw the third in favor of Petecio (10-9), with only the fifth judge, Manuel Vilarino of Argentina, seeing it otherwise.

Petecio will face either Kariss Artingstall of Great Britain or Sena Irie of Japan in the gold-medal match. The 29-year-old 2019 SEA Games featherweight titlist has already beaten Irie and Artingstall in the quarterfinals and semifinals, respectively, on her way to the gold in the 2019 AIBA World Boxing Championships in Russia.

“It means a lot to me po, kasi it (Olympics) is my father’s dream, and my dream also. This win is not only for me but also for my family, and to Filipinos, who prayed for me. I won this fight because I believed in God, I believed that He will help me,” said Petecio, turning serious and fighting to hold back her tears this time.

Petecio, Obiena move a step toward another Olympic gold
EJ Obiena advances to the men’s pole vault final after clearing 5.75 meters in his final attempt. AFP
With his nerves nearly getting the best of him, Obiena was still able to match the leap of world no. 1 and record holder Armand Duplantis of Sweden, no. 3 Piotr Lisek of Poland, no. 4 Renaud Lavillenie of France, no. 5 Christopher Nilsen of the United States and no. 7 Thiago Braz of Brazil, the Rio Olympic champion in his third attempt after two failed tries to clinch a seat in the Aug. 3, 14-man final round, where he is the only Asian to qualify.

“I was just feeling very sluggish, which is really strange. I didn’t feel like myself until the bar moved at 5.75m at first attempt,” said the world no. 6 Obiena, who couldn’t explain his feeling of lethargy.

Obiena started the competition by easily clearing 5.5 meters and then 5.6 before nerves nearly got the best of him when the bar was raised at 5.75.

Obiena’s personal best was the Philippine record of 5.87 meters he achieved at the Irena Szwewinska Memorial/Bydgoszcz Cup in Poland, but he will need to jump at least 6 meters against the championship field, which has five members of the elite “6-Meter Club” in Braz (6.03), Lavillenie (6.16), Lightfoot (6.0), Duplantis (6.18) and Lisek (6.02).

Meanwhile, Carlo Paalam moved near-effortlessly to the quarterfinals of the men’s flyweight 48-52kg boxing division with a 5-0 decision over Algeria’s Mohamed Flissi.

Petecio, Obiena move a step toward another Olympic gold
Carlo Paalam (red) defeats Algeria’s Mohamed Flissi with a 5-0 decision in their men’s fly (48-52kg) preliminary round of 16 boxing match to move to the quarterfinals. AFP
Now standing in the way of Paalam and a shot at the bronze medal is the division’s top seed, 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics gold medalist Shakhobidin Zoirov of Uzbekistan, who defeated Daniel David Varela de Pina Cape Verde, 5-0, in the preceding Round of 16 bouts.

Golfer Juvic Pagunsan slipped further at 55th spot following a five-over 76, 16 shots off American leader Xander Schauffeleat the Kosumigaseki Country Club, some 46 kilometers away northwest of Tokyo.

Topics: Summer Olympic Games , Nesthy Petecio , Ernest John Obiena
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