Paalam: Silver medal ‘a symbol of my life’

Silver medal winner Carlo Paalam, of the Philippines, left, and gold medal winner Britain’s Galal Yafai during the men’s flyweight 52-kg medal ceremony at the 2020 Summer Olympics, Saturday, Aug. 7, 2021, in Tokyo, Japan. AP

TOKYO—A much-anticipated second gold medal came in the form of a silver as Carlo Paalam yielded to Great Britain’s Galal Yafai in the men’s flyweight final of boxing at the Tokyo Olympics on Saturday.

The 28-year-old Yafai was the superior boxer in the fight, imposing the experience he reaped from years of fighting in tournaments in Europe and all over the world. In the end, the 23-year-old first time Olympian Paalam took some beating and was almost floored midway the second round.

Carlo Paalam yields to Great Britain’s Galal Yafai, absorbing a split decision loss in the men’s flyweight division final of boxing at the Tokyo Olympics on Saturday. Paalam settles for a silver medal, bringing the Philippine haul to a still best ever one gold, two silver and one bronze medals. AP

But for Paalam, the silver medal meant more than athletic excellence.

Itong medal na ito may simbolo po ng buhay ko,” he told Filipino reporters, tears rolling down his eyes. “Isa akong mangangalakal … itong medalya ay gawa sa mga sirang gadget. Sa basura siya galing, kaya nai-connect ko po siya sa buhay ko [This medal is a symbol of my life. I was a scavenger…this medal was made from recycled gadgets. It came from trash, so I can connect it to my life].”

Paalam was 10 when he moved from his native Bukidnon to Cagayan de Oro City in search of a job. He ended up a “mangangalakal” or scavenger, until one day, he joined a local boxing tournament and the rest was history, so to speak.

Despite Paalam’s silver, the Philippines’ 4-medal-haul performance in Tokyo stood as the best ever, thanks to Hidilyn Diaz’s conquest in women’s -55 kgs of weightlifting.

Paalam’s silver was the second for the Philippines—and in boxing—after Nesthy Petecio in women’s featherweight. Middleweight Eumir Felix Marcial settled for a bronze also in boxing.


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