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Tokyo 2020 Olympics: Meet the Philippine athletes competing in boxing and skateboarding

The Tokyo 2020 Olympics will run from July 23 to August 8, 2021. Nineteen Filipino athletes in competing in 11 sports will see action as the Philippines seeks to win its first official Olympic gold medal. In the lead-up to the opening of the Games, ESPN5 is producing a four-part series on all 19 athletes. This is the fourth and final part, featuring athletes competing in boxing and skateboarding.

Boxing

Carlo Paalam

- Men's Flyweight (52kg)

Eumir Marcial

- Men's Middleweight (75kg)

Irish Magno

- Women's Flyweight (51kg)

Nesthy Petecio

- Featherweight (57kg)

Form heading into the Olympics

Carlo Paalam was preparing for the box-off against 2016 Rio Olympian Rogen Ladon. The Association of Boxing Alliances in the Philippines was supposed to choose which of the two will be sent to the final round of qualifications for the Tokyo Olympics. However, the event was later canceled and qualification was based on rankings, giving Paalam a free ticket to Tokyo.

Paalam missed out on a chance to qualify for the Olympics with two tough losses in the 2020 Asia and Oceania Boxing Olympic Qualification Tournament. First, he lost to India's Amit Panghal in the quarterfinals and then to Kazakhstan's Saken Bibossinov in the Olympic box-off. After breaking camp in Calamba, Laguna, he continues his training in Thailand.

For a while, Eumir Marcial looked unstoppable. After settling for a bronze medal in the 2018 Asian Games, the boxer caught lightning in a bottle during the 2019 AIBA World Boxing Championships where he either shut out or stopped all five opponents before reaching the finals. However, a flash knockdown due to his eagerness to attack cost Marcial the gold.

He made a statement by winning the Olympic Qualifiers and then parlayed his success in the amateur ranks to start his professional boxing career, emerging victorious in his debut against Andrew Whitfield back in December of 2020.

However, upon his return to the amateur ring, Marcial was received what he called a wake-up call before heading to Tokyo. The power-punching middleweight suffered a shutout loss to Uzbekistan's Jafarov Saidjamshid at the ASBC Elite Men's and Women's Boxing Championships in Dubai last May.

Although he was not able to train for a prolonged period of time with the rest of the Philippine boxing team, ABAP was found a way to send him to the United States where he got to train with six American Olympic Qualifiers, which should prove to be beneficial for his medal hopes.

One of the first two Filipino fighters to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics, Irish Magno booked her ticket to the big dance by defeating Sumaiya Qosimova of Tajikistan during the box-off of the Olympic Qualifications. She was blanked by India's veteran boxer Mary Kom in the quarterfinals, but she was able to bounce back and secure an Olympic ticket.

Since fulfilling her dream of becoming an Olympian, Magno has elevated her training. Even though the pandemic posed many challenges, including being away from her coaches and settling for online training sessions, Magno still pushed herself to be her very best version.

Back in 2018, Nesthy Petecio was convinced she defeated Yin Junhua in their Round of 16 meeting. However, three of the judges scored the fight for the Chinese fighter who went unscathed the rest of the way to win gold in the Asian Games.

This lit a fire in Petecio that would culminate in a magical run during the 2019 AIBA Women's World Boxing Championships. Petecio climbed from the Round of 64 and used her intensity and aggression to reach the finals where she defeated Russia's Liudmila Vorontsova 3-2 to win the gold.

However, things quickly turned sour for Petecio as she was upset in the quarterfinals of the Olympic Qualifiers by Sena Irie, one of her victims during the World Championships. She was supposed to join another qualifying tournament but the cancellation of the event worked in her favor as he was able to book a ticket to Tokyo.

Medal chances

The men's flyweight division is stacked with great talents including the 2016 Rio old medalist Shakhobidin Zoirov and bronze medalists Thitisan Panmon (Thailand) and Hu Jianguan (China, later promoted to silver after Russia Misha Aloyan tested positive for a banned substance).

The two fighters who defeated Paalam in the qualifiers could also win medals. Still, even though the odds look stacked against Paalam, the diminutive fighter is in phenomenal shape. His speed will always be a problem for his opponents and he's certainly capable of pulling off upsets along the way.

Boxing pundits remain high on Marcial as the Associated Press picked him as the favorite to win the gold in his division over the likes of Oleksandr Khyzhniak of Ukraine, Younes Nemouchi of Algeria, and Gleb Bakshi of ROC.

Among the Filipino boxers, Magno might have the toughest road to an Olympic medal. The other five qualifiers from Asia and Oceania in Kom, Uzbekistan's Turusnoy Rakhimova, Chinese Taipei's Huang Hsiao-Wen, Japan's Tsukimi Namiki, and China's Chan Yuan are all tremendous fighters.

Turkey's Buse Naz Cakiroglu and Morroco's Rabab Cheddar are also favorites to finish on the podium.

Petecio had been working hard with the rest of the Philippine team from their training bubble in Calamba, Laguna to their camp in Thailand. She will have her work cut out for her as there are a lot of great fighters in the featherweight division including Vorontsova, Irie, Im Ae-Ji of Korea, Lin Yu-Tin of Chinese Taipei, and Michaela Walsh of Ireland.

However, as what happened in the World Championships, Petecio can always give herself a shot at winning it all. She's talented enough to beat any of the fighters in her division so the consistency in her performance will be key. - Carlo Pamintuan

Skateboarding

Margielyn Didal

- Women's street

- World ranking: No. 17 in women's street rankings; No. 5 in Asia

Form heading into the Olympics

The COVID-19 pandemic has put Didal in a bit of a disadvantage in terms of preparing for the Tokyo Olympics, but the 22-year-old skateboarder is still pretty much the same -- if not vastly improved -- person who won golds in the 2018 Asian Games and the 2019 Southeast Asian Games.

Didal fell short of a final appearance in 2021 Street Skateboarding World Championships back in June, but that hardly made a dent on her aspirations of making the Olympics, as her consistent showing internationally in the past couple of years helped the Cebu native lock up a spot within World Skate's top 20 rankings -- good enough to land Didal a spot in Tokyo.

The 2020 Asia Skater of the Year winner has reportedly been training in her own private skatepark in Cebu to prepare for the Games.

Medal chances

A frank assessment of her chances relative to her competition would mean that Didal may find herself on the outside looking in once the tournament rolls later this month.

Twelve of the 16 women ahead of Didal in the world rankings are competing in Tokyo -- including world No. 1 Pamela Rosa and No. 2 Rayssa Leal of Brazil, and world No. 3 Aori Nishimura, who topped the same world championships that Didal competed in last month.

Nothing is impossible, though, especially in the sport's first staging in the Olympics. And if anyone can pull off an upset of monumental proportions, it would be Didal, who has already shown in the past that she is capable of coming out on top against a field stacked with the world's best. - Eros Villanueva