Petecio settles for silver

Published August 3, 2021, 11:46 PM

by Tito Talao

Silver medal, P20 million, condo unit await her
Silver medallist Philippines’ Nesthy Petecio poses on the podium with her medal after the women’s feather (54-57kg) boxing final bout during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at the Kokugikan Arena in Tokyo on August 3, 2021. (Photo by Luis ROBAYO / POOL / AFP)

TOKYO —  Eight days for a second Olympic Games gold medal must have been too short a time to wait for the Philippines, especially considering that the first one had taken 97 years to arrive.

Perhaps after a couple more days.

Nesthy Petecio appeared baffled by the craftiness, mobility and penchant for clinching of Japanese Sena Irie in their featherweight 54-57kg final Monday, taking the silver medal in the XXXII Olympiad at the Kokugikan Arena.

Irie, who has beaten Petecio before in an Olympic Qualifier in Amman, Jordan in 2018, won over all five judges in the first round and weathered the Filipina’s second round counterattack that set up the deciding third round which the Japanese put away with enough bounce and some rapid-fire punches for the gold meda via unanimous decision.

Four judges had Irie ahead 29-28, while the fifth saw Petecio lagging 30-27.

An emotional Petecio, who said she gave the fight her all, was in tears during the awards ceremony, saying later at the press conference that she was dedicating her silver medal to her “country, family, coaches and best friend” who died recently.

“This really means a lot to me,” she added.

Petecio stands to receive a financial windfall amounting to no less than P17 million — P5M as incentive from the Philippine Sports Commission, P5M from telecommunications tycoon Manny V. Pangilinan, P5M from San Miguel Corporation chairman Ramon S. Ang, P3M from Phoenix Petroleum, and P2M from House Deputy Speaker Mikee Romero,

A P10M fully-furnished Suntrust condominium inside the Davao Park District also awaits Petecio, courtesy of real estate mogul Andrew Tan of Megaworld, while another taipan, Lucio Tan of Philippine Airlines, has offered her a gift 60K miles package equivalent to four roundtrip domestic flights or two roundtrip regional flights or one roundtrip flight to either Australia, the Middle East or Honolulu.

Petecio tried but was unable to completely shake off Irie and appeared to spend much energy looking to get untangled in an effort to make a fight out of a wrestling brawl, her punching power negated and her strength seemingly sapped by the third round.

“Opo, isa po yon sa di ko gusto, ayaw ko po ng ganong laro,” said Petecio of Irie’s endless clinching which lent the boxing final the appearance of a wrestling match. She nonetheless paid tribute to Irie’s strategy, which yielded the host country its first women’s gold medal in boxing.

“Pinag-aralan naman po namin yon. Baka meron din akong ‘di nagawa. Nagkulang din po ako siguro. Ganon pa man, saludo po ako kay Sena,” said Petecio.

(I don’t prefer that kind of fighting, but we have prepared for that. Maybe there was something I was not able to do. Still, I salute Sena.)

But her place in the annals of Philippine boxing has been secured.

The Davao del Sur native came down as the first Olympic boxing medalist for the country in 25 years since Mansueto ‘Onyok’ Velasco in 1996 in Atlanta, and the first woman podium finisher in the sport after five bronzes by men earlier, starting with bantamweight Jose Villanueva in 1932 in Los Angeles.

That year, the country’s third foray into the Games from 1924 in Paris, three Filipino athletes brought home three bronzes, a multi-medal performance surpassed here in Tokyo after weightlifting heroine Hidilyn Diaz won the nation’s first-ever gold medal last July 26, and three boxers secured podium finishes.

Two of them, flyweight Carlo Paalam and middleweight Eumir Felix Marcial, still have a shot at gold medals with semifinal bouts coming up on August 5, Thursday.

Paalam added a guaranteed bronze earlier to the country’s burgeoning medal haul by taking down 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics gold medalist Shakhobidin Zoirov of Uzbekistan in their 48-52kg quarterfinal showdown after an accidental head clash with 1:44 remaining in the second round left both boxers bloodied.

The fight was ruled a technical split decision.

Four judges had Paalam leading in the abbreviated quarters 20-18, while a fifth, from Tunisia, had the fight tied 19-all before it was stopped.

Paalam goes for a place in the semifinals against Japan’s Ryomei Tanaka at 1:30 p.m. (Manila time), while Marcial takes on top seed Oleksandr Hyzhniak of Ukraine at 2:03 p.m.

Tanaka won his quarterfinal bout, a non-stop punching duel, with Columbia’s Yuberjen Herney Martinez Rivas 4-1 before Paalam’s fight.

Meanwhile, Yuka Saso and Bianca Pagdanganan fire off the country’s bid in the women’s individual stroke play on Wednesday at the Kasumigaseki Country Club.

Saso, the US Women’s Open champion is paired with Lexi Thompson of the United States and Brooke Henderson of Canada in the first round, while Pagdanganan, regarded as the longest hitter in the LPGA, is grouped with Matilda Castren of Finland and Leona Maguire of Ireland.

Winning the gold is farthest from their minds though, this soon.

“I think it’s nice to have that goal but you can’t get ahead of yourself. We just have to take things day by day,” said Pandanganan, citing the sweltering Tokyo heat as a challenge.

“It’s very humid up here actually. It’s definitely a factor and you have to make sure you stay hydrated.”

Saso said the greens are in good shape although wind conditions could be tricky.

“It’s very windy,” she said. “But I’m going to be playing against top players, who I’ve been playing against in my past couple of tournaments, so I’m going to enjoy it.”

With the greens perfect and the wind blowing in every direction, Pagdanganan said they would need to have control, especially with the putting.

“It’s going to be a good test of accuracy and patience,” she said.

Asked if they feel pressure ahead of the tournament, Pagdanganan said: “Maybe a little. But seeing other athletes succeed may be a motivation for us to play a little better. 

“Playing for the country is something that we really don’t take for granted. Not everyone is blessed to do this.”

On Sunday, August 1, Juvic Pagunsan wrapped up his campaign in the men’s individual stroke play at 55th place with a 1-over-par 285 total through four rounds at the same layout, the event ruled by Xander Schauffele of the United States at 18-under.