April 22, 2024

■  Ofelia C. Empian 

Cordilleran athletes Claudine Veloso and Hergie Bacyadan remain positive after concluding their Paris Olympics journey following their defeat in their respective boxing bouts in the First Olympic World Qualifier in Busto Arzizio, Italy on March 7. 

Benguet-based Veloso fell out of the game via a unanimous decision against Ja-panese boxer Mikoto Harada in the women’s 54-kilogram. 

Veloso vowed to come back stronger and expressed her gratitude to all those who made the world-class opportunity possible for her.

She has a professional boxing record of two wins via knockout and one loss before dabbling in mixed martial arts and kickboxing winning a gold medal in the K1 sport in the 2023 Southeast Asian Games.

“I learned a lot through this Olympic Qualifying journey and will still continue to learn and improve all the aspects needed in my discipline,” Veloso said. 

Kalinga pride Bacyadan fell to Brazil’s Pereira Viviane in the 75-kg. women’s division after being dealt with a split decision, 3-2, in favor of her Brazilian opponent. 

Both fighters, with terrific backgrounds in combative sports, were first timers in the Olympic qualifiers for boxing where they showed their mettle against world-class boxers.  

University of Baguio scholars, Nesthy Petecio and Aira Villegas, meanwhile have secured their spots in the Paris Olympics for dominating their respective bouts. 

Petecio reigned in the women’s 57-kg. finals after delivering a series of blows to the body of Turkiye’s Esra Yildiz Kahraman, securing her golden ticket to Paris in July.  

Earlier, she defeated The Netherlands’ Maud Toorn Van der via unanimous decision in the women’s 57-kg., where she advanced to the semifinals. 

Fellow UB scholar Aira Villegas also won her spot in the Olympics with a unanimous decision victory over Bulgaria’s Zlatislava Chukanova in the women’s 50-kg. 

The two female boxers join fellow boxer and Tokyo Olympic bronze medalist Eumir Marcial in Paris. 

Tokyo silver medalist and UB scholar Carlo Paalam’s coaches threw the towel on the second round to hand over the win to Turkmenistan’s Shukur Ovezov due to a shoulder injury he sustained in his earlier victorious split decision bout against Mexican Andrea Bonilla.  

Paalam said this was done by his coaches to prevent further damage.

With this, he would have to vie for his Paris Olympics slot in the second World Qualification Tournament is set in May in Bangkok, Thailand.