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Tacloban boxer achieves Olympic dream

Tacloban boxer realizes Olympic dream

TACLOBAN, PHILIPPINES – Aira Villegas is still on cloud nine a week after clinching a slot in this year’s Paris Olympics.

“It is my dream to compete and represent our country in the Olympics,” Villegas, 28, told reporters in an interview here Monday.

She defeated Zlatislava Chukanova of Bulgaria 5-0 on March 12 in the 50kg quarterfinals of the 1st World Qualification Tournament in Busto Arsizio, Italy, punching her way to Paris.

In the same competition, Nesthy Petecio, the silver medalist from the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, secured her Paris ticket by defeating Esra Yildiz of Turkey, 4-1, in the 57kg semifinals.

She thanks Rominick, her older brother, for introducing her to the game. He was a student at the Leyte Sports Academy, which the provincial government ran. He is currently the boxing stable’s coach at the school.

Villegas has been on the national team since 2012, winning 29 of her 45 bouts.

Asked if she ever felt intimidated when facing foreign boxing opponents, Villegas explained that it was a natural reaction. Still, she quickly reminded herself that they both prepared just as hard.

“It’s up to us how we handle the situation. What I do is keep my faith and trust in God, believe in my capability, and I also trust my coach, my teammates, my family, and my supporters,” Villegas said.

She added that competing abroad boosts her confidence and allows her to study various techniques.

With the Paris Olympics just four months away, Villegas said she would train harder than before and is eyeing no less than gold.

She and Petecio will join fellow boxer and Tokyo Olympics bronze medalist Eumir Marcial, World No. 2 pole vaulter EJ Obiena, and gymnasts Carlo Yulo and Aleah Finnegan in the Paris Games scheduled for  July 26 to August 11.


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