Filipino boxer Carlo Paalam lost in the Olympic boxing final on Saturday, Aug. 7, but said he still treasures his silver medal—because the recycled metal reminds him of how far he has come since his days as a scavenger.
The 23-year-old, who was vying to become the first Olympic boxing champion from the Philippines, was edged out of the flyweight gold by Great Britain's Galal Yafai.
But Paalam, who grew up in poverty and scavenged from a landfill site to earn money as a child, refused to be downcast.
"The silver medal symbolizes what I went through because when I was a young boy, I was a scavenger and I collected junk and garbage," he said.
"I know this medal is made out of recycled materials, and I can identify with it because it is also made from waste material and garbage."
“Parang may simbolo siya sa akin etong medal, kasi galing siya sa mga gadget na sira.”— Paolo del Rosario (@paodelrosario) August 7, 2021
The #Tokyo2020 medals are made from recycled electronic devices, the same type of materials Carlo Paalam #PHI looked for when he was a ‘mangangalakal’.@OneSportsPHL @CignalTV #SeeUsStronger pic.twitter.com/ciX6Je043F
The 28-year-old Yafai, a former car factory worker, had the Filipino down in the first round of the scheduled three after an incisive three-punch combination.
Paalam tried to play catch-up after that against Yafai, whose two older brothers are both professional boxers.
That was the changing point, said Paalam, who has described himself as "a mere child of the streets."
"If not for the knockdown, I could have made a fight of it, but credits to my opponent," he said. "I had a game plan to pressure him, to cut the ring off and to trap him. But I got hit by a solid shot and I tried to recover. I got up and tried to make a fight of it but he had my number."
Despite the disappointment for Paalam, the Philippines has enjoyed a breakthrough Olympic campaign in the boxing ring, with Nesthy Petecio winning women's featherweight silver and Eumir Marcial taking men's middleweight bronze. (AFP)
Banner and thumbnail photo: Philippines' Carlo Paalam kisses his silver medal during the medal ceremony for the men's fly (48-52kg) boxing final bout during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at the Kokugikan Arena in Tokyo on August 7, 2021. Luis Robayo / POOL / AFP