MANILA - All eyes were on Nesthy Petecio during the Asia-Oceania Olympic Boxing Qualification Tournament held in Jordan last March, as she was expected to secure her spot in the Tokyo Games.
Petecio entered the qualifiers as the reigning world champion, and she was also coming off a golden performance in the Southeast Asian Games. The organizers installed her as the No. 1 seed in a featherweight field that also included 2018 Asian Games champion Yin Junhua of China.
She sailed past Sri Lanka's Krismi Lankapurayalage in the first round, but faltered in the quarterfinals against Japan's Sena Irie.
The Philippines did not go home empty-handed from the qualifiers. Middleweight Eumir Marcial secured his spot in Tokyo, as did flyweight Irish Magno, who became the first Filipina boxer to qualify for the Games since women's boxing was allowed in the 2012 London Olympics.
For Petecio, it is no issue that someone other than her made history by becoming the first Filipina boxer to make it to the Olympics.
"Yung pressure po na makakuha ako (ng Olympic berth), opo," Petecio said during an interview on Radyo Pilipinas recently. "Pero yung pressure dahil may una na po na nakapasok, wala, hindi ko naman po iniisip 'yun."
"Kumbaga masaya po ako kasi isa sa amin, isa sa teammate ko nakapasok. So 'yung sinasabi po ng lahat na pressure sa akin 'yun kasi ako hindi nakapasok na world champion, hindi ko po iniisip 'yun," she stresse.
Petecio, 28, stressed that she could not be happier for Magno, who won a box-off against Sumaiya Qosimova of Tajikistan to claim her ticket to the Olympics.
"Hindi po ako nakikipag-kumpetensiya sa teammate ko, na dapat ako ang mauna, dapat ako ang ganito. Dapat ako 'yung makauna sa inyo kasi world champion ako, hindi naman po," she said.
"Masaya po ako sa kung ano ang nakuha po ni Irish or ng mga kasama ko. Kasi may kanya-kanya po kaming pangarap at 'yun ay makapaglaro sa Olympics po," she also said.
"Hindi ko naman madadala po 'yung pag-kumpitensiya sa teammates ko, hindi ko siya madadala pag-angat ko. Kasi umangat ako, sabihin ko na naunahan kita. Pangit din po 'yun."
Besides, not all is lost for Petecio. There is still the world Olympic qualifying tournament next year, where she hopes to clinch her spot. Four berths are at stake in the competition, scheduled for May 2021.
For Petecio, making it to the Olympics is one of the few remaining goals she has as a boxer.
"Kumbaga, SEA Games nakuha ko na po 'yung gold. Sa world, isa sa pangarap ng papa ko. So Asian Games at sa Olympics na lang po," said Petecio. "'Yung dalawang 'yun. Siguro pag nakuha ko na po 'yun, pwede na, pwede nang magrelax-relax na muna."
Her coach, Nolito "Boy" Velasco, has no doubt that a motivated Petecio will have a good showing in the qualifiers, even though they have to make up for the prolonged break in training because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Filipino Olympians and Olympic hopefuls are still waiting for the government to give them the go-signal to begin training again, possibly in Metro Manila.
"Panibagong preparasyon na naman ang gagawin natin," said Velasco. "Pero si Nesthy kasi, nasa utak niya na na kailangan talagang, ngayon na maka-qualify. Kailangan maging Olympian siya talaga eh. 'Yun ang hindi niya nakuha eh."