TOKYO (AFP) – Carlo Paalam lost his Olympic boxing final on Saturday but said he still treasured his silver medal – because the recycled metal reminded him how far he has come since his days as a scavenger.
The 23-year-old, who was vying to become the first Olympic boxing champion from the Philippines, was edged out for flyweight gold by Britain’s Galal Yafai.
But Paalam, who grew up in poverty and scavenged from a landfill site to earn money as a child, refused to be downcast.
“Itong medal na ito ay simbolo ng buhay ko. Isa akong mangangalakal at itong medalya ay gawa sa mga sirang gadget po,” Paalam said.
“Sa basura siya galing, kaya nai-connect ko po siya sa buhay ko.”
The 28-year-old Yafai, a former car-factory worker, had the Filipino down in the first round of the scheduled three after an incisive three-punch combination.
Paalam was always playing catch-up after that against Yafai, whose two older brothers are both professional boxers.
That was the changing point, said Paalam, who has described himself as ”a mere child of the streets”.
”If not for the knockdown, I could have made a fight of it, but credit to my opponent,” he said. ”I had a gameplan to pressure him, to cut the ring off and to trap him.
”But I got hit by a solid shot and I tried to recover. I got up and tried to make a fight of it but he had my number.”
Despite the disappointment for Paalam, the Philippines have enjoyed a breakthrough Games in the boxing ring, with Nesthy Petecio winning women’s featherweight silver and Eumir Marcial taking men’s middleweight bronze.