July 22, 2024

'Kaya ko rin': Aira Villegas ready to make a name for herself in Olympic Games Paris 2024

Aira Villegas' debut in the Olympic Games Paris 2024 marks a new milestone in her boxing career. | Photo (c) RM Chua/One Sports

While all eyes will be on Filipino boxers Nesthy Petecio, Carlo Paalam, and Eumir Marcial in the upcoming Olympic Games Paris 2024, fellow Olympic-bound boxer Aira Villegas is poised to make a resounding statement herself in the biggest stage of them all.

Villegas is set to make her Olympic debut in Paris after she defeated Bulgarian opponent Zlatislava Chukanova by unanimous decision in the first World Qualification Tournament in Busto Arsizio, Italy.

Chukanova had beaten Villegas in the earlier rounds, but when it mattered the most, the 28-year-old Pinay boxer showed her heart to advance to the Olympics.

“Nung nakita ko 'yung sa bracket namin tapos nasa area ko siya. Sabi ko talaga nun sa sarili ko, 'Dapat itong Bulgaria na ito, umabot siya sa Final kasi sisikapin ko umabot ako na siya 'yung makaharap sa pinaka-last ko na [laban]',” Villegas told One Sports.

“Sa lahat sa kanila, siya 'yung tinignan ko na dapat umabot siya sa Final kasi kailangan ko siyang bawian,” she added.

Villegas was able to join Nesthy Petecio as the two female boxers bound for Paris.

[ALSO READ: Paris-bound! Boxers Nesthy Petecio, Aira Villegas book 2024 Olympic tickets]

The Philippines has found some measure of success in boxing when it comes to the Olympics, hauling seven medals in the sport. The best result came in Tokyo 2020 with two silver medals and one bronze.

Petecio, in particular, made history as the first Filipina boxer to step on the podium of the Olympics.

With Nesthy making her return trip to the quadriennial event, Villegas is all too keen to join her at the top. 

The southpaw from Tacloban wants to make a name for herself too.

“Itong Olympics na ito is sobrang napaka-halaga sa akin dahil simula sa wala tapos nakikilala ako, so sa darating na Olympics is parang papatunayan ko sa sarili ko kaya ko din makipag-sabayan sa iba na makapag-laro dito,” said Villegas.

[ALSO READ: "Job is not done" | ABAP bares "tough route" of five Olympic-bound Filipino boxers to qualify for Paris 2024]

Villegas's journey as a national athlete spans an impressive 12 years, marked by perseverance and dedication.

Despite the challenges she faced along the way, Villegas celebrated a remarkable achievement last February, clinching her first gold medal in the Boxam Elite Tournament in La Nucia in Alicante, Spain.

There's bound to be pressure to follow up on the success of the Tokyo 2020 contingent. There's also the hunt for the Philippines' first-ever Olympic gold medal in boxing. 

Still, Villegas has remained grounded, prioritizing her focus and mental clarity despite external expectations.

“Out of control ko kasi hindi ko siya masyadong iniisip kung ano 'yung isipin ng ibang tao, kung ano 'yung expectation nila sa akin. So kung iisipin ko siya masyado, mas lalo lang ako mapre-pressure and then makakagulo sa performance ko and everything,” said Villegas.

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