■ Ofelia C. Empian
Cordilleran athletes Claudine Veloso and Hergie Bacyadan are training hard for the boxing qualifying tournaments this year for possible spots for the Paris Summer Olympics.
The Association of Boxing Alliances in the Philippines (ABAP) recently announced the female fighters will go through two Olympic qualifying tournaments from Feb. 29 to March 12 in Busto Arsizio, Italy and another qualifier from May 23 to June 3 in Bangkok, Thailand.
Bacyadan, who has impressive wins in wushu and vovinam, and Veloso, an accomplished kickboxer, are both returning to boxing and in the 54-kilogram and 75-kg., respectively.
Veloso, originally of Davao del Sur but now based in La Trinidad, Benguet, 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.
Bacyadan of Kalinga, meanwhile, won a gold in the 2022 Thailand Open and a bronze in the 2022 Asian Boxing Confederation Elite championships in Amman, Jordan.
She then moved to vovinam where she won a gold medal in the World Championships and silver in the 2023 SEAG women’s under 65-kg. combat.
Both are members of the Samahan ng Kickboxing ng Pilipinas where they joined the country’s top boxing roster including Tokyo Olympics silver medalists Carlo Paalam, Nesthy Petecio, as well as Olympian Rogen Ladon, Mark Ashley Fajardo, Paul Julyfer Bascon, Ronald Chavez, Jr., Marjon Pianar, John Marvin, Aira Villegas, and Riza Pasuit for the grueling qualifiers.
The formidable national boxing team is currently in Australia for the members’ two-week training camp as they vie for the coveted gold medal in the Paris Olympics set this August.