Nesthy Petecio says no resentment over loss, dedicates silver medal to LGBTQ community

Nesthy Petecio insists there is no ounce of resentment in her heart after taking home a silver medal in the Tokyo Olympics following a unanimous decision defeat to hometown bet Sena Irie in the women's featherweight final on Tuesday.

Instead, there are only feelings of relief and gratitude for the 29-year-old Davao del Sur native, who sees the second-place finish in her first campaign at the Games as a golden victory of sorts for the country, for her family, for her team, and for the LGBTQ community.

"I'm very proud and blessed," Petecio told the press during the virtual Philippine Sportswriters Association (PSA) Forum Tuesday afternoon. "It was not easy getting to this stage, let alone winning an Olympic medal."

"Kinapos lang po tayo sa gold, pero sabi nga po nila: silver man 'to, pero it's shining like a gold medal (We may have fallen short, but as they say: it's a silver that shines like a gold medal)," she added.

The grace showed by Petecio in the loss numbed the initial feelings of dismay from fans and pundits over the result, which saw Irie hack out a 5-0 win on the scorecards for her third win in four fights against the Filipina boxer and, most importantly, for the first-ever Olympic women's boxing gold for Japan.

Petecio shared that the game plan early on was to maintain a distance against Irie as her corner remained wary over the Japanese boxer's ability to wear her out and effectively counter the aggression.

"In the first round, they told me not to attack immediately because Irie was good at countering. So I followed the plan. My coaches told me that if that plan doesn't click, we'll switch it up immediately," she opened.

The ploy didn't work out, as Irie closed the gap with her reach and clinched and grappled to earn the nod of the five judges who scored 10-9 in her favor.

"So I changed tactics and charged in the second and third rounds because I was down in the scorecards," she said. "But the clinching really had a huge effect on me because I couldn't break free immediately and it wore me out. Grappling is more exhausting than fighting, to be honest with you."

Petecio earned a 10-9 victory from four of five scorecards in the second round and believed she won the third, but all five judges appeared to see it differently and gave Irie the final round.

"We all thought we led the third. Even my coaches believed that. I did, too," she admitted. "But when they announced that it was a unanimous decision, I just smiled because I knew where it was headed."

Still, Petecio wasn't about to start complaining about the result.

"I fully accept the fact that I lost," she remarked. "The decision, it is what it is. We all have our own opinions, but I accept that decision."

"Masasaktan lang po tayo nang masasaktan kapag 'yun lagi ang iniisip. Hindi po tayo makaka-move on sa next po na pupuntahan (We'll only get hurt if we dwell on this decision. We won't be able to move on to our next goal)," Petecio added.

Petecio only had good words to say about Sena and expressed some contentment over the achievement, which made her the first Filipina boxer to win an Olympic medal and the third ever to secure a top-three finish in the sport after Anthony Villanueva in 1964 and Mansueto 'Onyok' Velasco in 1996.

"I salute Sena. She really wanted to win. We both did, really," she said. "This whole experience is incomparable, because I won a medal in my very first Olympics. This is easily the most unforgettable moment of my life. I was only expecting a bronze, but I got a silver. The Lord is amazing."

Sure, she shed tears moments after receiving her medal at the podium. Petecio, however, says those were tears of joy -- and tears for the ever-dedicated coaching staff composed of Aussie mentor Don Abnett and Nolito 'Boy' Velasco, who tirelessly whipped their ward into becoming a bonafide winner at the sport's biggest stage.

"Aside from my family and my late best friend, I wanted to dedicate a gold medal to my coaches, too," she opened. "But silver isn't bad. I'm still proud I was able to give this medal to my coaches. I feel very happy and blessed to see my coaches smiling after all the hardships we've been through."

The feat, of course, is also a victory for an LGBTQ community that has found another ambassador in Petecio, who proudly flew the flag during the post-fight presser.

"Para rin po sa LGBTQ community ang laban na 'to. Sulong, laban! (This win is for the LGBTQ community. Let's go, fight!)," she bared.

Petecio later talked about her pronouncement and said it was actually something that made her pretty nervous, though it's not something she will ever regret saying.

"I was worried because I thought about getting bashed or something like that. That's why my statements were kind of limited. I didn't want to step on anybody's toes," she explained. "But I am very proud to be part of the LGBTQ community. I'm not going to deny that. Whatever gender we may identify ourselves as, as long as we have a dream, we have to keep fighting and set aside those who try to doubt us or pull us down."

Her sights are now set on the 2024 Olympics in Paris, where Petecio aims to finally get her crowning moment. And after a splendid showing in Tokyo that saw her come convincingly close to the ultimate goal, the Filipina featherweight bet believes a better result won't be that far off the next time around.

"I think I can do it. Hidilyn (Diaz) won a silver in Rio back in 2016 and won gold this year; why not try, right? Maybe I can even get the gold this time," she expressed. "I hope we can get that. I'll work hard for that."