The Olympic Games in Tokyo made history for the LGBTQI+ sporting community once again, with 29-year-old Out Filipina boxer Nesthy Petecio winning a silver medal in boxing – the first Filipino boxer since 1996 to make the podium at the Olympic Games.
Following her silver medal win, Petecio made a heartfelt speech saying, “I am proud to be part of the LGBTQ community. Let’s go, fight! This fight is also for the LGBTQ community,” according to the Filipino news outlet, Inquirer.
"I am proud to be part of the LGBTQ community. Sulong, laban! Para rin po sa LGBTQ community ang laban na ‘to." –Nesthy Petecio, Tokyo Olympics silver medalist (featherweight) #Tokyo2020 | @ftjochoaINQ pic.twitter.com/tE61l2wwNb
— INQUIRER Sports (@INQUIRERSports) August 3, 2021
A Dream Come True
Petecio was also quoted by Filipino news outlet Rappler as saying, “No matter what our gender is, as long as we have a dream, we fight. Ignore people who bring you down and the things they say.”
Petecio lost the gold medal match to Japan’s Sena Irie (Japan’s first ever female boxing medalist). Competing in the Women’s Featherweight (54-57 kg) final on Tuesday, Petecio was bested in an unanimous 5-0 decision by Irie.
It was the first time the Women’s Featherweight Division has been included as an Olympic medal event. Petecio’s teammate Irish Magno (competing in the flyweight division) is also out lesbian.
Being named to the Filipino Olympic Boxing team was a dream come true for Petecio. “For me, all the golds I’ve won in the world [championships] and international, everything’s useless if I don’t get to compete in the Olympics. This is the peak of every athlete…being an athlete won’t be complete until I compete in the Olympics,” Petecio told Filipino sportscaster, Noli Eala on his show Power & Play.
Petecio’s dream of making it to the Olympics was hard fought. She failed to qualify for the team for the 2016 Games in Rio and almost missed out on the Games following her loss (once again, to Irie) in the quarterfinals of the Asia Oceania Boxing Olympic Qualification Tournament in Amman, Jordan in March 2020.
Look at Nesthy Petecio during her awarding 😭 pic.twitter.com/9qZhEge8sL
— Chels 🌻 (@ChelsToleds) August 3, 2021
A Long Journey
Petecio’s journey to the podium started at seven years old, when she began training with her father Teodoro, who trained her older brother and neighbours. Petecio initially learned to box as a means of self-defence and later as a means to help support her impoverished family, who used to collect chicken droppings to sell for fertiliser.
Speaking to Rappler, Petecio said, “My father forced me to take it up. It got to the point where I would cry because I didn’t want to train.”
Her initial reluctance fell away and at eleven years old she fought a boy bigger and more experienced than her. She made the national team in 2007, and since then has earned nine career medals, a World Championship title, and three silver medals at the Southeast Asian Games.
Looking To Paris 2024
“This means so much to me as not only is it my dream, it is my father’s dream,” said Petecio, after winning her Olympic semi-final match over Irma Testa of Italy.
Boxing is one of the most popular sports in the Philippines and half of the country’s 12 medals have been won in the sport.
Petecio’s Olympic efforts have reportedly been handsomely rewarded with gifts of a condominium, a house, five years of free flights, and cash incentives with 17 million pesos (456,000 Australian dollars) according to Outsports.
Philippine Airlines, the country’s national carrier celebrated Petecio’s efforts in a Facebook post saying, “Your silver win showed the heart of a strong Filipina to the world! Thank you for making the country proud.”
Petecio now is focusing her efforts on the next Olympic Games, to be held in Paris 2024, where she hopes to win a gold medal. “My Olympic journey will continue,” she said at a press conference. “Who knows, maybe in Paris right? I’ll continue the fight.”