MANILA, Philippines – Just like every Filipino athlete, amateur boxer Mark Anthony Barriga dreams of finally nailing it for the Philippines.
The Philippines has yet to win a gold medal in the Olympics since joining the Games in 1924 and Barriga is determined to end the drought this year in London.
"Ang goal ko s'yempre ay makapanalo ng gold," said Barriga, the lone Filipino bet in the Olympic boxing competitions.
"Kahit sabihin nating mahirap kunin, s'yempre tayong mga Pilipino nangangarap pa rin. Isa ako dun sa nangangarap," added the 19-year-old.
Barriga fights as a light flyweight (49 kilograms), which is the same weight class of Olympic medalists Mansuelto "Onyok" Velasco, Roel Velasco and Leopoldo Serrantes.
Onyok won a silver medal in Atlanta in 1996, while Roel brought home a bronze from Barcelona in 1992. Serrantes also nabbed a bronze in the 1988 Seoul Olympics.
Roel now coaches Barriga.
"Basta kami todo ensayo lahat ng tinuturo ng coaches sinusunod ko. 'Yung coach ko, si Coach Roel, dating Olympian din. Naranasan na nila, kaya meron akong tiwala," said Barriga.
Included in his training regimen are plenty of stamina and punching bag work and, of course, lots of sparring sessions.
Strangely, he doesn’t spend much time studying his opponents’ movements on tape.
"Hindi ako nanonood ng video ng kalaban ko kasi para sa akin may mga movements sila na hindi naman namin nakikita sa tape," said Barriga. "Kaya nag-a-adjust na lang ako sa ring."
Barriga is also aware of the quality of competition he would have to face in London.
The top boxer in the light flyweight division is China's Zou Shiming, who won the gold in the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
"Sobrang hirap talaga lalo na nga kalaban ko mga datihan nang Olympians, naka-gold na," said Barriga.
But instead of putting much focus on his opponents, the Filipino boxer said he’d rather concentrate on what he can do.
"Para walang pressure. D'yan lang tayo masisira, kung puro pressure ang nasa utak mo… Ang focus ko, sa sarili ko," said Barriga. – With a report from Dyan Castillejo, ABS-CBN News