Carlo Paalam moved two wins away from the ultimate goal in the Tokyo Olympics and it doesn't look like he's about to let the moment get the best of him.
"I'll do my best," Paalam told reporters in Filipino during the virtual Philippine Sportswriters Association (PSA) Forum on Tuesday, just hours after he claimed a place in the men's flyweight semifinals. "My coaches keep reminding me not to rush, just play my game, and believe in myself."
The advice from Paalam's corner sounds simple, but it was the very recipe for success the scavenger-turned-Olympian used to upend top-seed and reigning Olympic champion Shakhobidin Zoirov of Uzbekistan.
The Filipino fighter didn't look deterred against an aggressive Zoirov and had an answer for all his counterpart threw at him. That was more than enough for all five judges to score Round 1 10-9 in favor of the Philippine bet.
The second round was not too different, as Paalam remain in control and led in four of five scorecards before the fight was called off at the 1:16 mark as both boxers sustained deep cuts due to an accidental headbutt.
While the win was surprising even for him, the Filipino flyweight said that it was all made possible thanks to a game plan focused on getting off to a strong start in order to put Zoirov on the back foot.
"I did not expect this. I just told myself I'll do what I can and not rush the whole process until I get to the end," he shared. "My coaches said I needed to win the first round because that would mean he'll have a lot of catching up to do. It wouldn't have been favorable for me if I was the one who had to make up a lot of ground later on."
Paalam's victory assured Team Philippines of an unprecedented fourth medal - a haul that is, without a doubt, the biggest in the country's history in the Olympiad.
That is far from the end of it for the surprise semifinalist, though. His next hurdle on Thursday (1:30 p.m on TV5 and One Sports): hometown bet Ryomei Tanaka, who had to be taken away by wheelchair after surging back against Colombia's Yuberjen Herney Rivas in a split decision quarterfinals win.
Asked if Tanaka's condition heading into the match will be an advantage, Paalam answered in the negative and added that his team will nonetheless go hard at work to come up with a strategy that will continue charting his course towards Philippine boxing's first-ever gold medal in the Games.
"I can't really say it would be an advantage. We both have good hands and I saw him walking on his own power hours after his bout," he shared. "But I'll work hard and think of a good strategy for that fight. I'll do my best, trust in the Lord, in my coaches, and in our game plan."