Philippines' Nesthy Petecio celebrates after winning against Italy's Irma Testa in their semi-final boxing match during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at the Kokugikan Arena in Tokyo on July 31, 2021. Photo by UESLEI MARCELINO/AFP
Nesthy Petecio made history on Tuesday, becoming the first female Filipino boxer to bring home a medal for the Philippines.Petecio, 29, took home a silver medal after losing to her opponent, 20-year-old Sena Irie from Japan, in a tightly-contested women’s featherweight final. But her name is forever in the record books as the first Philippine woman boxer to ever make it to the gold medal bout.
The outstanding performance of the country’s boxers helps make this the best Olympic appearance for the Philippines ever. The team is set to take home at least four medals, one more than the country’s previous record of three, in the 1932 games. In total, the Philippine team is bringing home three medals this year from boxing alone.This is also the year the Philippines finally brought home an Olympic gold medal after nearly 100 years of trying, thanks to weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz who made history last week.Petecio’s medal is the first a Filipino boxer has brought home since 1996, when the country stopped to witness Mansueto “Onyok” Velasco fall just short of winning the Philippines’ first gold at the Atlanta Games.The Philippines has now won eight medals in boxing, accounting for more than half of the 14 the country has earned since first competing at the 1924 Olympics in Paris. This Tokyo Games in particular has been historic for Philippine boxing.Aside from Petecio, two other boxers, Carlo Paalam and Eumir Marcial are both guaranteed medalists in Tokyo, after both men qualified for the semis in their respective weight divisions.It has been a long time coming, especially for women’s boxing.Despite receiving far less attention, women from the country have been punching above their weight on the international stage for years. The Philippines has won just two gold medals at the AIBA World Boxing Championships, and both were won by women.
Though the Philippines has become a world power in boxing, driven primarily by the transcendent talent known as Manny Pacquiao, the fame and fortune hasn’t carried over to female boxers.For Petecio in particular, her historic run in the Olympics is all the more special, as it comes just a couple of years after Petecio appeared to be a spent force in the ring.Her slump came after her disappointing run at the 2018 Asian Games in Indonesia, when she lost her opening bout to Yin Junhua of China. It was a crushing letdown that followed a string of gold medal finishes in various tournaments.“I felt depressed. I didn’t want to see gloves, a ring or anything elseconnected to boxing,” remembers Petecio in a previous interview. She focused instead on finishing her associate’s degree in hotel and restaurant management at University of Baguio and returned to the national team with a stronger desire to compete than ever.“After a year, I missed boxing like before, when I started. Now I’m the one who comes back to the boxing ring,” said Petecio. “I said ‘God, I missed this.’”She eventually made her way back into the ring, finding herself medaling for the Philippines three years later, in the largest international sporting stage.“Don’t ever, ever give up your dream.”