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Saturday, June 22, 2024

PH boxers optimistic in Olympic Games

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THE Philippine boxing team refused to guarantee winning the sport’s first-ever Olympic gold in Paris, but assured it is sending the best unit capable of matching, if not surpassing, the gains it made during the Tokyo Olympiad four years ago.

Nesthy Petecio, Aira Villegas, and Hergie Bacyadan along with Carlo Paalam and Eumir Marcial make up what the Association of Boxing Alliances in the Philippines (ABAP) referred to as capable of a podium finish.

“Itong five na nag-qualify, we feel has a very good chance to podium and to go all the way,” said ABAP secretary-general Marcus Jarwin Manalo as he accompanied the team to the Philippine Sportswriters Association (PSA) Forum on Tuesday at the conference hall of the Rizal Memorial Sports Complex.

“We’re very optimistic that this is really a strong five that we’re bringing (to the Paris Olympics).”

Both Petecio and Paalam won silver medals in the Tokyo Games, while Marcial added a bronze in what had been the most productive campaign by a Philippine boxing squad to the Olympiad.

While personally Manalo felt the quintet of two-time Olympians Petecio (57 kg), Paalam (57 kg), and Marcial (80 kg), along with first timers Aira Villegas (50 kg) and Hergie Bacyadan (75 kg), have the best chance of finally delivering the first ever gold for Philippine boxing, the five boxers would rather let their fists do the talking, aware of how tough the competition will be in Paris.

“Alam kong hindi ganu’n kadali ngayon ‘yung pag-dadaanan ko sa Paris especially iba siya sa Tokyo. Kasi sa Tokyo wala siyang exposure halos, walang laro, walang multi-training na ginawa. Ngayon open na. So hindi basta-basta gaya ng iniisip ng iba,” said Petecio in the Forum presented by San Miguel Corporation, Philippine Sports Commission, Philippine Olympic Committee, MILO, Smart/PLDT, and ArenaPlus, the leading sports entertainment gateway in the country.

“Iba na ‘yung level ng mga boxers ngayon. Kung may pinaka-maliit pa na butas ng karayom na pagdadaanan ko, mas maliit pa ‘yung daan na gagawin ko dito,” added the 32-year-old Petecio, who was with Villegas, Bacyadan, and coaches Don Abnett, Reynaldo Galido, and Ronald Chavez in the same public sports program.

PSC Chairman Richard Bachmann briefly joined the boxing team and wished them well in their Olympic campaign.

Both Bacyadan and Villegas agree with what Petecio said regarding the coming Olympic competition.

“Hindi naman talaga basta-basta ‘yung makakalaban namin du’n. Kaya sa akin kailangan ko pang mapunan kung ano yung kakulangan ko para prepare ako pagdating sa Paris,” said the 28-year-old Bacyadan, a world vovinam champion.

Added Villegas, “First time akong mag Olympics, pero halos lahat ng nasa weight category ko nakalaban ko na rin. And mga world champion din yung mga nandun, and ako baguhan pa lang naman.”

But coaches Abnett, Galido, and Chavez like the chances of the five Filipino boxers who qualified – the most number for a Philippine boxing team to the Olympics since the 1996 Atlanta Games.

“It’s great to have these three medalists from the last Olympics join this team. And as far as the preparations and competitions that they’ve joined this year, their performances have been great,” Abnett said.

“Itong dala naming lima, pinaka-malakas ito na team. Hindi ako magbabanggit ng medalya kung anumang kulay siya. Basta itong lima, siguradong magde-deliver,” said Chavez, who represented the country during the 1992 Barcelona Olympics.

The boxing team will be leaving with the rest of the Philippine delegation on June 22 for their month-long training in Metz, France.

But the boxers won’t stay that long in the French city as they leave for Germany on August 1 for a multi-nation training camp with other boxers who also qualified to the Olympics.

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