Nesthy Petecio knows that not every athlete has a happy tale. Along with stories of success are missed opportunities, unfulfilled potential, and broken dreams.
And Petecio knows about heartbreaks all too well, especially after she fell short of punching her ticket to the Tokyo Olympics.
A featherweight world champion and gold medalist in the Southeast Asian Games, Petecio was tabbed as favorite in the Asia and Oceania Olympic Boxing Qualifiers last March to clinch 1 of the 4 Tokyo slots up for grabs in her weight division.
Petecio needed only to reach the semifinals to nail her Olympic berth, but her campaign came to a screeching halt when she lost to Japan’s Irie Sena via split decision in the quarterfinals.
“I kept on apologizing to my coaches, to my teammates, and my bosses in ABAP (Association of Boxing Alliances in the Philippines). I felt I let them all down,” Petecio said.
Although she has fought in the biggest boxing competitions in the world and got used to dealing with lofty expectations, Petecio said she felt a different kind of pressure in the buildup to the Olympic qualifiers.
She trained harder than ever, but self-doubt crept in.
“I was afraid to fail. I was thinking that if I lose, people will say my head grew big, that I became lazy and did not train properly,” said Petecio.
What Petecio felt going into the Olympic qualifiers was entirely different from her mindset when she joined the world championships, where she became just the second Filipina to be crowned world champion.
“During the world championships, I would have been happy with any finish. The expectations for me to do well were not that high,” she said. “In the qualifiers, people expected me to win. I expected myself to win.”
The pressure to win started to make Petecio tense and stiff. She was the reigning world champion yet she lacked the self-confidence to impose her will on her opponents.
Instead of fighting to win, Petecio ended up fighting not to lose. It was evident at the start of the tournament, where after an unimpressive first win, she admitted her body felt heavy.
“It was like my body was not responding to what my mind wanted it to do.”
A loss seemed forthcoming. When it finally happened, Petecio could not stop crying. She decided to lock herself in her room – needing time to be alone and space to understand what went wrong.
“I needed to feel the agony of losing. It was heartbreaking, I just kept crying. It was my dream to be an Olympian,” Petecio shared.
“I felt like I failed my bosses, my coaches, my family, and the whole country. I wanted to just take in all the pain. It was my way of telling myself to make sure not to go through the same pain again.”
By the time the Philippine team flew back home, Petecio had moved on. She knew she had to.
Petecio still has one more chance to qualify for Tokyo in the World Olympic Qualifying Tournament, where she will face stronger opponents from all over the world.
This time, though, Petecio is unfazed, with the prospect of facing tougher competition giving her extra motivation.
“I have always shown I have the ability to bounce back. After I lost in the Asian Games, I won in the world championships. I have learned that I am resilient,” said Petecio.
“I have conditioned my mind to think more confidently and positively and to tell myself that one of the slots in the next qualifiers will be mine.” – Rappler.com