Quest for gold: Paris is boxer Nesthy Petecio’s ‘final mission’

Quest for gold: Paris is boxer Nesthy Petecio’s ‘final mission’
Tokyo Olympics silver medalist Nesthy Petecio —INSTAGRAM @neshpetecio PHOTOS

Nesthy Petecio made it abundantly clear—Paris 2024 is the last time she will compete on the Olympic stage.

The lingering injuries she could once ignore, feel more serious now. The rest she used to sacrifice to get in more reps of training, feels as valuable as ever.

Father Time is slowly catching up to her and she’s wise to it. But she isn’t really trying to run away.

“I’m not getting any younger. I’m aging, I feel pain here and there,” the 32-year-old Petecio admitted. “When I feel pain, I used to be able to shrug it off. But now, I really feel it. When my body tells me to rest, I listen. Before, I can ignore it and get some extra work done.”

Too many athletes overstay their welcome in their sport. This is the harsh reality that aging stars have to come to grips with in the twilight of their careers. 

This is especially a common theme in boxing—a sport that’s notorious for forcibly retiring its athletes before they get a chance to do it by choice.

And who can blame them? It’s all they have known their entire lives, after all.

But this doesn’t seem like an issue Petecio will have to deal with. She, in fact, already longs for what comes after she fades into the shadows of obscurity. 

“Almost half my life, I’ve already given to boxing,” said the two-time Olympian. “I haven’t had enough time to spend with my family, my siblings. So I really want to enjoy living a normal life after this.”

“I wanna stop waking up at 5 a.m. to get my sweat going. I wanna wake up and just enjoy my cup of coffee in the morning.”

But before all that, one final mission—to try and capture the elusive gold at the 2024 Paris Olympics.

Breaking barriers

Before Petecio’s inevitable swan song in Paris, let’s take it back to the very beginning. The Davaoeña slugger has been a trailblazer from day one.

Born into poverty in Sta. Cruz, Davao del Sur, she was taught boxing by her father Teodoro as a means of self-defense.

“The first time my father introduced me to boxing, I didn’t even know there was a national team or that women were allowed to box,” recalled Petecio. “Because mostly, I only see basketball all around me.”

“When I started training, having this as a career never even crossed my mind,” she continued. “But then I got to watch the 2005 SEA (Southeast Asian) Games when we (the Philippines) hosted.”

Petecio also learned she could make a few thousand pesos in boxing. So at 11, she participated in inter-barangay competitions to help her family make ends meet.

Everything changed on March 17, 2003. Petecio had joined a boxing contest as part of the Araw ng Davao (Day of Davao) festivities.

Equipped with hours and hours of training, young Nesthy was excited to showcase her budding skills. There’s only one problem–she was the only female boxer who signed up.

But then her father had a brilliant or unhinged idea (depending on who you ask). Teodoro was confident his daughter could match up against a male boxer. Nesthy was on board, too. The perceived natural disadvantages didn’t faze her.

“When I was told I was fighting a male, I really wasn’t nervous,” Petecio said. “I was even more excited because I was sparring with boys all the time. That’s probably why my father was so confident that I could do it.”

Girl vs boy

“Before the fight, all the boxers told me, my opponent told me, that he was going to kill me in that ring,” Petecio said of that fateful day. “But I’m enjoying all of it so I was just laughing at him.”

“He even slashed his thumb across his throat, telling me I’m dead. I retaliated and gave him the thumbs down.”

To everyone’s surprise, she won the fight, despite the significant disparity in size and experience.

“I was so happy because everyone watched after they found out a girl was boxing a boy,” she said. “Everyone who watched the other sports came to watch my match.”

“When I got down from the ring, I went to buy something to drink,” Petecio recollected. “The vendor told me, ‘Just take whatever you want, you don’t have to pay.’ She wanted to give me free drinks because she was happy I showed what girls are capable of.”

The win was even made sweeter for Petecio as it ultimately paved her way to joining the Philippine national team, and years down the line, competing in the grandest stage of sports.

Getting knocked down

It wasn’t all smooth sailing for the Pinay Olympic pugilist. Failure to qualify for the Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games in 2016 followed by failure to medal at the 2018 Asian Games sent her down rock bottom.

Nesthy admitted that doubt crept in and the crippling anxiety almost ended her career before she reached her crowning moment.

“After the 2018 Asian Games, I felt so depressed I was crying all the time,” she shared. “The way I felt at that time, I didn’t even want to see a pair of gloves or a ring.”

Thankfully, Petecio had a support system that remained by her side until her demons were purged.

“I was so blessed because of the people who believed in me, the people who supported me during my lowest moments,” said Petecio. “Like (former national team) coach Nolito Velasco, sir Ed Picson, sir Ricky Vargas, and of course, my family.”

Win or lose or whatever I decided to do with my life, I knew they’d support me. These are the people who stood by me during the most dramatic moments in my life.”

To clear her head of all the bad memories from boxing, Nesthy decided to take a break. She wasn’t even sure she was coming back, but got the assurance of the national team that they’ll be waiting whenever she’s ready.


For the first time in her life, Petecio pursued a passion outside the ring. She enrolled in the School of International Hospitality and Tourism Management at the University of Baguio.

“[My coaches] let me do what I wanted, whatever I was comfortable with. When I told coach Nolito I wanted to distance myself from boxing, he told me, ‘Okay, just do the things that will make your mind relax.’”

Petecio revealed that she was so close to quitting the national team that she even considered looking for a day job. Fortunately, her mentors gave her the time and space she needed apart from boxing but kept tabs on her.

“[Coach Nolito] told me, ‘Enjoy your schooling and focus all you’ve got in your studies. And when you’re ready, we’ll still be here, I’ll still be here.’”

Coach Velasco’s words were enough to get Petecio going. “It was a huge thing for me to feel that someone keeps believing in me. Even if they were just few—I don’t need many—I just needed one, two, or three to keep believing in me. That’s all I needed.”

Round 2 in Paris

Nesthy with her brother Norlen Petecio

After winning the silver medal in the Tokyo Summer Games in 2021, Petecio feels like her legacy is already set. It’s likely the reason she’s at peace with her approaching retirement.

“To be honest, when I won in the quarterfinals and I knew I was winning the bronze for sure, I was already so happy,” Petecio said of her Tokyo Olympics campaign.

“But when I got into the finals, that was a different feeling. My happiness was through the roof. What I prayed for was only simple, but the Lord gave me so much more than I asked for.”

“That’s when I found out how great the Lord is and that every struggle or challenge that He gives us, He only gives us ‘cause He knows we can conquer them.”

But before she rides off into the sunset, the veteran national team athlete promises to give it her all. She may be content with her legacy, but a shiny gold medal will further solidify her as an icon in Philippine sports.

“My mindset in Tokyo and right now hasn’t really changed that much,” Petecio said of her upcoming bid in Paris. “The only thing I added is that I wouldn’t pay too much attention to the negativity around me.”

Gaining a few years may not be all that bad. After all, Petecio is coming into the Games with greater wisdom.

“I will listen to my instincts and my own ideas more. In Tokyo, my coaches couldn’t get on the same page when it came to formulating a game plan for the finals.”

“Honestly, that confused me because I didn’t know who to listen to. But [in Paris], if that happens again, I’m just gonna let them have at it, but I’m going with my gut.”

Read more: Quest for gold: For EJ Obiena, pressure is a privilege

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