The countdown begins for Panabo Olympian-A A +A
Saturday, June 30, 2012
Countless TV guestings and interviews with a new TV commercial to boot make a Filipino Olympian an instant celebrity considering that the country has yet to win its first-ever gold medal in the world's biggest sporting spectacle.
But 19-year-old boxer Mark Anthony Barriga remained grounded despite his celebrity status as he kept focus for the biggest stake of the 2012 London Olympics slated July 27 to August 12 - the elusive gold.
Mark, a product of the Barangay Una Boxing Team of Davao del Norte, wrapped up his training in Cagayan de Oro City over the weekend following his recent stint at the ALA Gym in Cebu City where he sparred with professional boxers.
“Akong training sa ALA gym dako gyud ang natabang kay naka-sparring man gyud ko ug mga pros. Andam na ko modawat ug kusug ug sakit nga komo ba (My ALA Gym training helped me to prepare for strong punches in London)," he told Sun.Star Cebu.
He traveled to Cagayan de Oro with veteran head coach Roel Velasco. Mark was made to spar with both amateur and professional boxers in the City of Golden Friendship.
He went on saying in the vernacular, "I'm ready for the Olympics," although he promised no medal finish.
The Panaboan fighter, a gold medalist in the Sydney Jackson Memorial Tournament in Uzbekistan in May, however, has the heart and skills to get him through the odds in the quadriennial meet.
Mark, who learned the sport at age nine, had come a long way since winning gold medals in the Palarong Pambansa 2009 in Tacloban City, 2008 in Puerto Princesa City and 2007 in Koronadal.
The middle child of Edgar, a machine operator, and Melita, a housewife, was also hailed best boxer of the 2009 Palaro as well as in the 2008 National Youth Open in Iloilo and 2006 Invitational in Panabo.
Mark, who idolizes Manny Pacquaio, joined 10 other athletes sent off by President Benigno C. Aquino III recently at the Blue Leaf in Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City.
In Aquino's message, read for him by Department of Energy Secretary Jose Rene Almendras, urged Olympians to bring glory to the nation and fill hearts of each Filipino with pride.
The chief executive said he believes in the capacity of the Filipino to "surprise" the world.
Who knows, the smallest Filipino boxer to show his wares in the Olympics may yet be the one to pull off the surprise.
Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on July 01, 2012.