High hopes on boxers

Nelson Beltran - The Philippine Star

Pagunsan slows down; Gebbie bows out

TOKYO – A second-round struggle by golfer Juvic Pagunsan at the Kasumigaseki Country Club yesterday marked a dull day for Team Philippines ahead of what could be another exhilarating high for the country in the XXXII Olympiad here today.

Pagunsan lost the momentum of a five-under card Thursday, wavering with four bogeys against two birdies for a two-over 73 and a big drop in the leaderboard now paced by American Xander Schauffele – he with his close calls to a number of majors.

Through 36 holes, the Filipino bet stands at joint 25th with a three-under total.

Meanwhile, rower Cris Nievarez made his farewell race in the Sea Forest Waterway, finishing fifth in Final D and 23rd overall in the 32-man field topped by Stefanos Ntousko for Greece’s first medal in the Tokyo Games.

The 21-year-old bet, the first Filipino rower to compete in the Olympics since Benjamin Tolentino’s stint in the 2000 Sydney Games, promised to make good use of his valuable learning here, looking forward to qualify in the 2024 Paris Games this early.

At the Aquatics Center, the Philippines’ Luke Gebbie topped Heat 5 with a time of 22.84 for 41st overall. He failed to make it past the qualifying.

From a slow day, Team Philippines is tipped to be back on a roll today as boxers Nesthy Petecio and Carlo Paalam, and pole-vaulter EJ Obiena figure in crucial battles.

Petecio clashes with Italy’s Irma Testa in a featherweight semifinal, Paalam trades blows with Algerian Mohamed Flissi in a flyweight quarterfinal while Obiena faces Armand Duplantis, Thiago Braz and a number of other star high flyers in their initial showdown at the National Stadium.

Obiena, Duplantis and Braz are tipped to lead the 12 qualifiers fighting for the gold Tuesday.

Hopes are high Petecio and Paalam will progress further and jack up Team Philippines in the medal tally.

“We suffered a setback (Thursday), but that’s sport. We’re back to a positive winning attitude especially because we got reports from our coaches that both Nesthy and Carlo are itching to get back in the ring and are both in high spirits,” said Association of Boxing Alliances in the Philippines (ABAP) president Ricky Vargas.

“We’re confident they’ll do well, and we join the entire country in praying for their continued success,” he added.

In golf, Pagunsan has some catching up to do if he’s to contend for a podium finish.

Just three shots off at joint fifth before the second round, the Negrense bet fell 15 rungs down now eight adrift after the struggle marked by bogeys on Nos. 5, 8, 11 and 13 in another rain-interrupted day in Kasumigaseki.

Before the play stoppage, Pagunsan was done with his round laced by just two birdies on Nos. 6 and 15.

It was Schaufelle’s day with the American matching Day One’s best round of eight-under to improve to 11-under overall for a one-shot lead over Mexican Carlos Ortiz.

First-round leader Sepp Straka of Austria, matching par in the day, skidded to third, joined by Chile’s Mito Pereira (65) and Swede Alex Noren (67) at eight-under 134.

Masters champ Hideki Matsuyama was also at eight-under – six under in the day – through 16 holes when rains halted play. Fifteen others were still to complete their rounds.

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