Carlo Paalam’s silver caps Olympics like no other for intrepid, 19-man PH Team
TOKYO — A campaign that started high on a hope of gold ended on Saturday with an emotional moment of triumph scavenged from the bits and pieces that made up the silver medal.
Carlo Paalam, who as a kid scrounged around for garbage scraps to sell for a living, lost by split decision to Great Britain’s Galal Yafai in the men’s boxing flyweight final in the Tokyo Olympics at Kokugikan Arena here.
But the silver he settled for almost meant the same for Paalam, if only for how it was fashioned from.
“I came from scavengers, selling garbage scraps. [This medal] symbolizes my life because this came from broken gadgets. [This medal] came from garbage. It came from garbage … and it has a connection to my life,” the 23-year-old Paalam said in Filipino, his voice cracking as he spoke.
According to the Tokyo Medal Project, the medals being awarded to the winners in the Olympics are recycled from old electronic gadgets such as smartphones and laptops.
With the silver, Paalam officially entombed the failures of past Philippine delegations to the Olympics. Team Philippines will fly home with a medal tally of one gold, two silvers and a bronze, a haul that will enshrine these Olympians in favorable spaces in Filipinos’ memories.
Boxing’s medal haul
Hidilyn Diaz ended a 97-year golden drought when she ruled the women’s 55-kilogram category in weightlifting, burying world champion and heavy favorite Liao Qiuyun with a pair of Olympic records in a weight class that was making its Games debut.
Nesthy Petecio added a silver in women’s featherweight boxing and Paalam chipped in another after a pair of fights that reflected the impact of Diaz’s gold: Both fighters had a nation holding its breath, believing finally that Olympic triumphs weren’t pipe dreams.
Eumir Marcial notched the bronze medal after bowing out in the semifinals of the men’s boxing’s middleweight tournament.
But even the medal-less Olympians carved their own milestones to ensure that this delegation would go down as the best ever sent to the Games.
Rower Cris Nievarez reached the quarterfinals in the men’s single sculls, the farthest a Filipino has ever rowed in an Olympiad. EJ Obiena reached the final in the pole vault, establishing himself this early as a legend in a sport that has never come within sniffing distance of the podium even during PH athletics’ golden years.
And gymnast Carlos Yulo made the final of the vault apparatus in gymnastics. Margielyn Didal, meanwhile, reached the skateboard street final and won hearts with her personality despite failing to land a medal.
Paalam had Filipinos excitedly looking forward to a golden moment to cap the country’s historic performance here after a blazing start where he landed crisp, scoring shots against Yafai.
But the Englishman’s experience came to fore as he bided his time and waited for an opening.
He found one under two minutes left, dragging Paalam to the ropes and then uncorking a blistering 1-2 combination that wobbled the Filipino before following with a left hook that led to a crucial knockdown.
“I was quite surprised [when I scored the knockdown],” Yafai said in the press conference that followed the awarding ceremony. “I knew that would get me a round.”
After getting decked, Paalam knew what he had to do.
But getting there job done was a different story.
It was the same case for Yuka Saso, who finally got going at Kasumigaseki Country Club and fired an eagle-spiked six-under par 65 in the final round.
The strong performance came a tad too late, leaving many to wonder what could have been had Saso swapped a three-over card in the first round for something less bogging.
The 20-year-old Saso went six-under over a seven-hole stretch for her rally.
Saso wound up with a 10-under 274 and finished in a share for ninth place.
Bianca Pagdanganan closed out with a 74 marred by a double-bogey at the last and finished with a one-over 285 total, good for 43rd in a field of 60 players.