No sayonara: Paalam waves hello to Olympic gold medal bout

No sayonara: Paalam waves hello to Olympic gold medal bout

TOKYO – In the waning days of the Tokyo Games, there’s still no goodbye for Carlo Paalam.

No goodbye, no sayonara, no adios. It’s hello gold-medal bout!

Paalam, at a young age of 23, cemented his place among the all-time Philippine sporting greats as he demolished Japanese rising star Ryomei Tanaka with a methodical showing to advance to the flyweight final Thursday.

TRACKER: Team Philippines at the Tokyo Olympics

As the clear better fighter, Paalam scored a unanimous decision that made him only the fourth Philippine boxer to reach the Olympic finals after Anthony Villanueva, Mansueto “Onyok” Velasco and Nesthy Petecio.

Assured of the silver, the Cagayan de Oro native hopes to match the golden effort of weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz as he fights Great Britain’s Galal Yafai in the final Saturday.

But it was a hit and a miss for Team Philippines at the Kokugikan Arena Thursday as middleweight Eumir Marcial went up short in a close, brutal semifinal faceoff with Ukrainian freight train Oleksandr Khyzhniak.

“Naubusan ako ng hangin,” said Marcial in losing a split decision to the bemedaled Ukranian, who’s been unbeaten in over 60 fights now.

And it’s a dry day for the Philippines at the Kasumigaseki Country Club east course with Bianca Pagdanganan and Yuka Saso failing to get into the groove and thus falling further behind.

In sweltering heat in the Saitama country club, Pagdanganan fired an even-par 71 and dropped 20 rungs down to 27th, 11 shots off new leader Nelly Korda (62-129). Saso, meanwhile, carded a three-under 68 to go even (142) after 36 holes.

It could be all over for both Filipina golfers if officials push through with a plan to reduce the tourney to 54 holes in anticipation of a coming super storm.

Team Philippines unleashed its own storm atop the ring, with Paalam blowing past Tanaka, ranked No. 9 flyweight in the world and Mr. Boxer for Japan thrice in the last few years.

“Idinaan ko sa bilis at ginawa ko kung ano talaga ‘yung laro ko,” said Paalam, using quickness to fight off the strength of the Japanese.

“Tanaka is stronger. We told Carlo not to counter but show up, hit one-and-two and step back,” said Team Philippines coach Don Abnett.

Paalam was an elusive moving target. And each time Tanaka connected, the Pinoy pug always had a one-two combination for an answer.

The imminent victory was as clear as day that the Philippine crowd vigorously chanted PHI-LI-PPINES! PHI-LI-PPINES! ahead of the final bell.

Four judges scored it a clean sweep (30-27) for Paalam, with the other judge seeing it 29-28 also for the Pinoy fighter.

Paalam, however, admitted that he also received a jarring blow that had him clinging on to the Japanese in the second round.

“Natamaan ako ng malakas, nahilo at napadasal sa Panginoong Diyos. Napahawak ako sa paa niya,” Paalam said.

Overcoming the brief scare, Paalam completed an overwhelming triumph that set him up for a shot at the gold.

“Hinihiling ko po ngayon sa mga kapwa ko Filipino na ipagdasal ako. Gagawin ko ang best ko, kasi hindi ko naman hawak ‘yung desisyon, tsaka ‘yung kalaban ko magaling din. Tiwala lang sa sarili. At sana ibigay sa atin ng Panginoon,” said Paalam.

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