RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – What started out as a journey of six boxers — five males and one female —that began in Qian’an, China and continued all the way to Astana, Kazakhstan saw the Olympic hopefuls pared down to two — Rogen Ladon and Charly Suarez.
Now those two boxers, after undergoing one-month training in the Las Vegas, Nevada, United States of America, planed in to Rio-Antonio Carlos Jobim International Airport for the final leg of that long journey… the 2016 Rio De Janeiro Olympics.
The two arrived with coach Nolito “Boy” Velasco with medal ambitions in their eyes.
Philippine Olympic Committee First Vice President and Rio chef-de-mission Jose Romasanta, said he could not understand why there’s only one coach to handle the two boxers in this Games that will run from Aug. 5 to 21. Romasanta made repeated pleas for an additional coach but it was denied. As a result, Romasanta and mission doctor
Dr. Ferdinand Brawner will help out in the Philippines’ corner.
Romasanta is also concerned who would serve as cutman for the Filipino boxers – if needed. He joined the boxing team for lunch Thursday and offered the services of the Philippine team physican, Dr. Ferdinand Brawner, as cutman.
“With no head gears, there’s the possibility for any of our boxers to suffer a cut, considering that they have to fight as many as six bouts to get to the finals. I don’t think our coach, being alone, can perform both duties during the fight,” said Romasanta.
Despite the lack of an extra coach in the boxers’ corner, both Ladon and Suarez were in very high spirits.
“Go tayo for gold,” declared Ladon, the 22-year old boxer from Bago City, Negros Occidental. The Philippines is in the midst of a 20-year medal slump with the last medal coming from boxing when Mansueto “Onyok” Velasco brought home a silver from the 1996 Atlanta Summer Games. Onyok’s older brother Roel, also is an Olympic medalist having brought home bronze from the boxing competition of the 1992 Barcelona games.
“Boxing has always been a medal hope in the Olympics for our country,” said “Pangarap ko talaga maka-abot and lumaban sa Olympics,” shared Ladon. “Sino ba may ayaw?
“We will try our best and take it day-to-day and step by step,” chimed in Suarez, who will turn 28 on Aug. 14. If he gets the breaks, the bible-preaching native of Sawata in Davao del Norte will be fighting in the semifinals of the 60 kg weight class on his birthday, assured of a bronze.
Suarez is a two-time gold medalist in the Southeast Asian Games (2009 in Laos and 2011 in Jakarta) and silver medalist in the 2014 Incheon Asian Games.
“I think this my best chance to win a medal in the Olympics,” he said, adding that he was very satisfied with the training he and Ladon went through in Las Vegas and Washington.
Under the Philippine Incentives Act, a gold medal in the Olympics is worth P10 million in cash incentives, a silver medal P5 million and a bronze P2 million.
“Additional motivation yun,” said Ladon who was quick to point out that making the country proud was the paramount goal. “Aanhin mo yung ikaw lang ang masaya kung kaya mo naman paligayahin lahat?"
With the arrival of the two boxers, only three members of the Philippine team haven't checked in here. They are hurdler Eric Cray who will fly in from Houston, marathoner Mary Joy Tabal who will come in from Japan and golfer Miguel Tabuena, still in Thailand competing in the King’s Cup.
The seven Pinoy athletes who are in Rio since last Sunday are just making sure that stay in tip-top shape – from swimmers Jasmine Alkhaldi and Jessie King Lacuna, weightlfters Hidilyn Diaz and Nestor Colonia, taekwondo’s Kirstie Elaine Alora, long jumper Marestella Torres-Sunang and table tennis’ Ian Lariba, the flag bearer.
Looking over the athletes here in Rio are Philippine Olympic Committee officials Col. Jeff Tamayo and Julian Camacho, and administrative offers Liza Ner of the POC and Merly Ibay of the Philippine Sports Commission.
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