Tokyo— Carlos Yulo and Nesthy Petecio, two Filipino athletes tipped to win an Olympic gold by a US website, begin their road to glory as the Summer Olympic Games go full blast in various fronts on Saturday.
Petecio takes on Marcelat Sakobi Matshu of the Democratic Republic of the Congo in the very first boxing match of the Tokyo Games at noon.
“I am more than ready,” declared Petecio on Friday, right after a relaxing massage session at the Team Philippines’ Secretariat inside the Athlete’s Village.
On the other hand, Yulo is pumped up for battle in the men’s artistic gymnastics that gets going at the Ariake Gymnastics Centre.
Petecio and Yulo were predicted by olympicmedalspredictions.com to give the Philippines two gold medals in the games.
The same site forecasts boxer Eumir Marcial bagging a silver medal and weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz earning a bronze.
Petecio, the women’s featherweight gold medalist at the Ulan-Ude World Championships in Russia in 2019, is expected to breeze past her foe, three years her junior. In the same world tournament, Matshu only ranked 17th.
“Our coaches have reviewed videos of my opponent and they have prepared a strategy for me,” said the 29-year-old veteran. “I’ll only need to follow instructions when I climb the ring.”
The Petecio-Matshu duel—set at 11 a.m. (noon in Manila)—is the very first bout of these Olympic Games, where boxing is supervised by a special body created by the International Olympic Committee following the suspension of the International Boxing Association, which is under investigation for dubious decisions in past major tournaments.
“She’s ready and has something to prove,” said coach Boy Velasco, who handles the women on the team. “This could be her time and she worked hard for this.”
Next up for Team Philippines in the competitions set at the Kokugikan Arena is women’s flyweight Irish Magno, who fights Kenya’s Christine Ongare on Sunday, followed by Carlo Paalam’s men’s flyweight bout against Ireland’s Brendan Irvine on Monday.
Marcial drew a first-round bye and will only fight in the men’s middleweight round-of-16 on July 29 against either Algeria’s Younes Nemouchi or Uganda’s Ssemujju.
Yulo, according to Gymnastics Association of the Philippines president Cynthia Carrion-Norton, has completely studied the routine and moves of his biggest rival, three-time world champion Nikita Nagornyy.
“We scientifically studied Nikita’s most recent performance and Caloy stands a good chance,” said Carrion, adding the multi-titled Russian is a shell of his old self.
“He [Nagornny] did 6.6 in his last competition,” revealed Carrion-Norton. “If Nikita does 6.6 here and Caloy makes 6.8, then Caloy’s done it.”
Yulo will not be doing his signature and possibly gold-clinching triple back and double forward routine after a bad fall while training at the Ariake Gymnastics Centre two weeks ago.
It’s a risky routine Yulo’s camp wants the Nagornyy to do, while hoping the Russian errs in doing so.