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From Heartbreaks to Honor: How Nesthy Petecio Got Back Up

Nesthy Petecio suffered heartbreaking losses before getting back up and winning the silver medal at the Tokyo Olympics.

On August 3, Filipina boxer Nesthy Petecio gave the Philippines its second medal for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. The 29-year-old boxer from Davao went head to head with Sena Irie of Japan in the finals of the Women’s Featherweight category in the quadrennial sports meet. However, the 20-year-old fighter from Japan won via unanimous decision.

Regardless, Nesthy still got to bring home the silver medal–the first Philippine medal in boxing after 25 years after Onyok Velasco’s second place finish at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, and the first medal for any female boxer in Philippine Olympic history. (Read: Triathlete Vanj Endaya Shares Her Fitness Routine Amid Lockdown)

During the awarding, tears of joy and pride could be seen falling from the Filipina boxer’s eyes. Despite not being able to get the gold, Nesthy proudly raised her history-writing medal. (Read: Pinay Teen Golfer Yuka Saso Wins US Open)

But did you know that Olympic medalist almost quit boxing a few years ago?

Heartbreaking losses

Nesthy Petecio (left) during her bout against Yin Junhua of China (Photo from Asian Games/Philippine Star)

During a 2016 Rio Olympics qualifier match, Nesthy had suffered a loss to Moroccan boxer Zohra Ez Zahraoui, which ultimately crushed her Rio Olympic dreams. While this was a tough blow to the boxer’s career, it wasn’t until 2018 when Nesthy had a devastating loss.

In what was a controversial match, Nesthy had an early exit at the Asian Games in Jakarta. She lost via split decision to China’s Yin Junhua, ending her hopes of a podium finish. For many, including the Association of Boxing Alliances of the Philippines (ABAP), the decision was questionable as the Filipina was clearly more aggressive than her foe.

And this match was not only heartbreaking for Nesthy, but also made her doubt her skills and if she should still pursue the sport she’s grown to love from age 11. “After po talaga nun, sobrang na-down ako nun,” the boxer admitted, “Sinabi ko sa sarili ko, baka hindi para sa akin ‘yung boxing.” (Read: Pope Francis Quotes On The Importance And Impact Of Sports)

This doubt came as she had previously won four straight gold medals from different competitions to prepare for the Asian Games, but she had bowed out early of the quadrennial meet. Nesthy even thought of just working a regular 9-to-5 job if ever she quit boxing.

Gusto ko nang huminto [boxing], gusto ko nang maghanap po ng trabaho,” she said in an interview for the Olympics website, “Down na down po ako nun, depressed ako, stressed.”

Returning stronger

Photo from Sta. Cruz Tourism/Nesthy Petecio – World Champion Facebook

Nesthy said in an interview in the Go Hard Girls podcast that she suffered depression for seven months after the loss. But she eventually bounced back from it after much encouragement from her coaches, and all the people who believed in her.

Sobrang blessed po ako sa mga taong naniwala sa kakayanan ko,” she shared during the post-match interview of her Olympic semi-finals win. “Pinaramdam nila sa’kin na hindi pa tapos yung career ko sa boxing.”

In 2019, Nesthy made a statement comeback when she won in the Thailand Open International Boxing Championship and AIBA Women’s Boxing World Championships. She also won the gold medal for the Philippines at the 2019 Southeast Asian Games. (Read: Gold Medalist Hidilyn Diaz Proves Nothing Is Impossible With God)

The year after, she achieved her ultimate career goal: qualify for the Olympics. While she didn’t get through the qualifiers in March 2020 when she lost to, ironically, Sena Irie of Japan, she was given a slot by the International Olympic Committee’s Boxing Task Force due to her ranking.

Women’s Feather (52-57kg) silver medalist Nesthy Petecio of Team Philippines poses with her silver medal (Photo from Dan Mullan/Getty Images/Tatler Hong Kong)

And now, at the Tokyo Olympics, Nesthy has made history and proved herself to the world. After devastating losses, she now has an Olympic silver medal to her name. Not only has she made the Philippines proud, she has proven that girls can do anything guys can.

Nesthy, just like Hidilyn Diaz, has also broken gender barriers by excelling in sports that are dominated by and are stereotypically “for men”. (Read: Meet the 10 Filipinas Representing PH At The Tokyo Olympics)

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