Freeman Cebu Sports

Herstory too

WRECKORDER - FGS Gujilde - The Freeman

So near, yet so far. Featherweight Nesthy Petecio fought tooth and nail for gold against a Japanese foe who twice defeated her before. She was not only burdened with a whole country’s expectation to duplicate the strongest Filipina’s feat, she also knew she had to win it clean. Knock the home bet out, her only clear chance to emerge golden.

Many times the lady pugilists stuck their bodies close to each other, wrestling more than boxing. But the match was closer. The Japanese won the first round, but the Filipina who beat her once before evened the next. The final three minutes separated the gold from silver, but who got the better color was not clear. After declared winner, Sena Irie jumped for joy, but more for relief it went her favor. She knew it could have gone either way. That close.

Judgment call. Or miscall, has been our fighters’ debacle. In the same venue 57 years ago, featherweight Anthony Villanueva lost the gold to a Soviet boxer in a controversial split decision. In 1996 at Atlanta, light flyweight Mansueto Velasco lost the final to a Bulgarian in another disputed call. Three boxing finalists. Two more may join the stable.

Carlo Paalam so stunned the defending and world champion from Uzbekistan he forgot to shake his hand. Another bronze, after middleweight Eumir Marcial knocked his Armenian foe out in the quarters. Whatever happens next, the lean and mean nineteen have rewritten Philippine Olympic record with the best ever one gold, one silver and two bronze medal haul. It could still improve.

Collectively, they attest to where Filipinos can excel. In a categorized sport, not in a sport where anyone joins free, where height is might and size is prized. Weightlifters and boxers fight in a category where they stand shoulder to shoulder and weigh pound for pound against each other. But Hidilyn Diaz is luckier hers is not decided by a jury, but by exact weight of heavy plate. A kilogram is a kilogram whichever side it is weighed from. Exact science. But a lightning punch sometimes disconnects via a judge’s hunch. In case of doubt, judges defer to home court. Opinion, not exact science, much less good conscience.

The 5’2” Petecio however proved height is not always might. She outslugged her taller Italian foe in the semi-finals. Had the reigning world champion from Davao del Sur been as aggressive in her final match as she was in the semis, she could have achieved what no man before her ever did. But it now belongs to herstory, what could have been is better asked what will be. In Paris she turns 32, still the right age to peak for a gold medal to pick.

Collectively too, Diaz and the boxing squad share a mission. Fight for flag and country, and bail their family out of misery. Thankfully, the cash incentives by law and liberality combined are huge enough to rewrite their sob story, if handled properly. Although in their eyes we don’t see the color of money, only the pursuit of athletic glory. That’s how much they love this ungrateful country.

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