Pamisa, Paalam discoverer, feels as honored | Inquirer Sports
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Pamisa, Paalam discoverer, feels as honored

By: - Sports Editor / @ftjochoaINQ
/ 05:18 AM August 09, 2021
Philippines' Carlo Paalam kisses his silver medal during the medal ceremony for the men's fly (48-52kg) boxing final bout during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at the Kokugikan Arena in Tokyo on August 7, 2021.

Philippines’ Carlo Paalam kisses his silver medal during the medal ceremony for the men’s fly (48-52kg) boxing final bout during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at the Kokugikan Arena in Tokyo on August 7, 2021. (Photo by Luis ROBAYO / POOL / AFP)

TOKYO—As he spoke of bounties unclaimed, of a bond that was like father-son, and of an enduring trust in a scrappy kid’s potential, Elmer Pamisa made it clear that Carlo Paalam is no recycled sports hero.

“Even when he was still young, I saw his bravery, his smarts when he fought on the ring,” the boxing trainer said in Filipino on Sunday during a Zoom conference. “I was saying he would be our first gold medal winner in the Olympics.”

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Not quite, but oh, so close.

Paalam pocketed the men’s boxing flyweight silver on Saturday, and while on the podium, he stared at his medal intently, finding a shared identity with his prize.

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“May simbolo kasi sya sa buhay ko,” Paalam said while choking up as tears welled in his eyes. “Galing po ako sa scavengers po, nangalakal. Parang may simbolo sya sa buhay ko. Kasi galing sya sa sira na mga gadget po. Sa basura sya galing. Basura sya galing … parang may connect sya sa buhay ko.”

(“It symbolizes my life. I came from scavengers, selling garbage scraps. [This medal] symbolizes my life because this was built from broken gadgets. [This medal] came from garbage. It came from garbage … and it has a connection to my life.”)Medals awarded to podium finishers in the Tokyo Olympics are recycled from old gadgets like laptops and smartphones.

But for Pamisa, it was no discarded talent that he found scavenging for reusable refuse at a landfill in Upper Dagong, Barangay Carmen, Cagayan de Oro City. The scrappy kid was a winner the minute he fought his first bout—in a neighbor’s house—for a bottle of Coke.

“He was really good,” Pamisa said.

And he found out later just how good. Pamisa, with the help of then Misamis Oriental Gov. Oscar Moreno, now Cagayan de Oro’s mayor, entered Paalam in regional contests where the young slugger would almost always emerge victorious.

In fact, Paalam played a central role in the boxing rivalry between Panabo City, Davao del Norte, and Cagayan de Oro.

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“They would put up a bounty of P15,000 for anyone of their boxers who could beat Carlo,” Pamisa said.

But even Pamisa had no idea of Paalam’s ceiling.

“I never thought he would make it to the Olympics,” he said.

But Paalam got the call-up for Tokyo due to his world ranking, and there was only one person he made sure would join him in his Olympic journey.

“I spoke with our boxing officials and promised to win a medal if coach Pam could come with me to Tokyo,” Paalam said, before becoming emotional. Pamisa, Paalam said with his voice cracking, was like a father to him. “I love him a lot.”

After the final flyweight match, where Paalam lost largely because of a crucial knockdown in the first round against Great Britain’s Galal Yafai, the 23-year-old Filipino hugged Pamisa tight enough that the coach felt one with his ward in the moment.

“It was also my honor that he got a medal,” Pamisa said.

And Paalam will scavenge for that gold anew in Paris 2024, saying the windfall he will receive for his feat here will not soften his resolve.

And Pamisa knows how deadly a resolute Paalam can be.

“Until now, nobody has claimed that P15,000 bounty,” Pamisa said.

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TAGS: Boxing, Carlo Paalam, Elmer Pamisa, PH Tokyo 2020, Tokyo Olympics
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