NEVER mind if they both went through the wringer. Never mind if it’s still a long way to go.
But mind you, the boxers are on target, still perfect, record wise and looking every bit a potential source of pride and joy again for Team Philippines.
Inside the almost-empty Kokugikan Arena on a hot, sunny Monday, as the 32nd Tokyo Olympics entered its fourth day, Nesthy Petecio and Carlo Paalam, were rejoicing, exchanging high fives with the coaches and Team PH officials while getting pat on the back for getting the job done.
In a span of 90 minutes, Petecio and Paalam triumphed against respective rivals, with the former slaying a giant in world’s No. 1 and top seed Lin Yu-Ting of Chinese-Taipei via 3-2 split decision that sent the Filipino southpaw just a win away from bringing home a medal in the featherweight division
Earlier, Paalam let his fists remind everyone that he would not be saying goodbye this early in his first Olympic stint.
Sharp and relentless, Paalam went bang, bang, bang right from the opening bell of the three-round, 9-minute fight and held on to salvage a 4-1 victory over a gritty Brendan Irvine of Ireland to advance to the round of 16 of the flyweight division.
The win sent Petecio to the quarterfinals on Wednesday against Columbia’s Yeni Marcela Arias Castaneda, who escaped with a 3-2 decision over Bulgaria’s Stanimira Petrova in the succeeding bout.
The twin victories in boxing more than made up for the disappointment at the Ariake Urban Sports Park, where Margielyn Didal was exchanging talents and skills in street skateboarding, at about the same time the Filipino boxers were trading blows against respective foes.
And Didal didn’t just roll over and die.
The Asian Games champion and pride of Cebu placed seventh in a field of 32 starters in the preliminaries, making it to the finals and eventually finishing seventh among eight entries in the demanding event won by Japanese Momiji ishiya, who’s only 13.
The Filipino skateboarder couldn’t hide her elation over her success of making the Magic 8. She was seen congratulating and hugging almost every competitor, flashing wide smiles after every stint.
So the four-member boxing team remained perfect after three appearances. It’s most famous member, middleweight Eumir Marcial, will not see action until Thursday against a yet to be determined opponent since he’s seeded to the Round of 16.
Aware the fight was too close to call, Petecio jumped with joy and let out a big yell the moment it was announced he was the winner by split decision.
“Nakaw-nakaw lang po ako ng suntok noong huli at iningatan ko na tamaan ako ng solid,” Petecio told Filipino sportswriters at the interview area.
Though dwarfed by her opponent, the switch-punching Petecio won the first round (4-1) thanks to a crafty left-right combinations that threw the Taiwanese off-balance and tentative in her punches.
Came the second round and the Taiwanese, whom the Filipino had never fought before, started to throw punches in rapid-fire fashion to level the score heading tdo the third and crucial round.
The scores went 28-29, 29-28, 28-28, 29-28, 29-28, a testament to the closeness of the fight.
And Paalam? He was on attack mode from the start against the much-taller Irishman, who gained the nods of the judges to take the second round with a closing barrage of combinations before floating out of reach.
“Thankful kasi nanalo tayo on the first day ng laro ko,” said Paalam. “Medyo dikit man ang laban, at least binuhos ko kung anong natitira sa pagod ko”.
“Nakita ninyo naman kahit pagod n pagod na ako, suntok pa rin ng suntok kasi gusto ko talaga manala para sa pamilya, para sa team,” Paalam added.
Paalam admitted the Irishman had him figured out by the second round.
“Una, sa first round po sinasabihan po ako ng mga coaches namin na magaling po talaga, matangkad pa,” he said.
According to Australian coaching consultant Don Abnett, Paalam apparently misheard the notice given him after the first round that he was ahead 5-0.
“He thought he was trailing and so he threw caution to the wind and traded punches with the Irishman,” said Abnett.
On Tuesday, judoka Kiyome Watanabe and weighlifter Ann Alreen Ando make their debuts, while swimmers Remedy Rule and Luke Gebbie return to the pool for their respective events.
Watanabe, a veteran of he Asian Games and the Southeast Asian games, clashes with Spain’s Cristina Perez Cabana in the 63-kg division while the rookie Ando competes in the women’s 64kg class of Group A.
Rule swims in Heat 3 of the women’s 200-m butterfly and Gebbie competes in Heat 5 of the men’s 200-m butterfly, both mindful of the enormity of the task at hand.