Villaflor: Exceeding expectations

The Philippine campaign in the Tokyo Olympics has exceeded expectations, and our hero athletes aren’t done yet in their quest for more medals.

Assured of a silver, Nesthy Petecio takes on hometown bet Sena Irie in the Women’s featherweight final bout Tuesday, Aug. 3, at noon.

Going for gold is Petecio’s ultimate aim, and what better way to do this than settle the score against her Japanese rival.

Today’s final will be the fourth time the two women will face off.

The 21-year-old Irie has an edge over her older adversary, having won two and losing one in their previous encounters.

The underdog, Petecio, 29, must dig deep from her boxing arsenal to turn the tide against Irie, which has the hometown crowd behind her.

Prior to Petecio’s bout, fellow Filipino boxer Carlo Paalam will seek another sure bronze for the country when he faces Shakhobidin Zoirov of Uzbekistan in the Men’s flyweight quarterfinal.

Later in the day, Ernest John Obiena will also go for a precious athletics medal in the Men’s pole vault final.

Regardless of today’s results, this Olympics is now the best finish ever by the Philippines, which has already secured a gold from weightlifting champion Hidilyn Diaz, a sure silver from Petecio, and a sure bronze from boxer Eumir Marcial.

(As of press time Monday, Aug. 2, Carlos Yulo was also in contention for a medal in the Men’s vault final.)

Marcial, meanwhile, can turn his sure bronze into silver should he win against a familiar brick wall named Oleksandr Khyzhniak in the Men’s middleweight semifinal on Thursday, Aug. 5.

Having lost to Khyzhniak in 2018, Marcial, like Petecio, intends to avenge his loss by beating the Ukranian and advancing to the final.

The Filipino pugilist has been a beast in his weight class in this Olympics so far, having stopped his two previous foes.

His tremendous skill and power were on display in the highlight-reel knockout of Armenian Arman Darchinyan in the quarterfinal.

But to defeat Khyzhniak, the Filipino must marshal all his strength, heart and abilities in what by far is the greatest fight of his life.

In all, the performance of our lean delegate of 19 athletes no doubt has become a source of pride and inspiration for a country that continues to reel from the barrage of blows from this pandemic.

The message of our Filipino athletes in the Tokyo Olympics is loud and clear: We shall overcome.


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