TOKYO -- The Philippines' Nesthy Petecio and women Olympic boxing medalists sent out a resounding message about the image of female fighters and hope their success can get more girls involved in the sport.
Silver medalist Petecio, 29, also proudly declared that she is part of the LGBT community. She is the first Filipina to win an Olympic medal in boxing and also broke the country's 25-year wait for a podium finish in the sport.
Women's boxing entered the Olympics for the first time at London 2012, when there were only three weight categories, but there are five in Tokyo and women's boxing is more popular than ever.
"It means a lot to me," Petecio said.
"This medal is not just for me, it's for my country, it's for my coach, for my best friend who died this year."
Petecio yielded to Sena Irie, who became the first Japanese woman to win Olympic boxing gold.
Powerful message to girls
While the pandemic-hit Tokyo Olympics served as a showcase for women in boxing, the athletes said more needs to be done.
"I'm not really good at sport in general," said the 20-year-old Irie after winning the featherweight title, the first boxing gold of the pandemic-delayed Games.
"So this sends out a message to all girls who are not good at sports: as long as they try hard, they can achieve something.
"Media is now covering me and I think there will be more opportunities for media to cover women's boxing," she added.
"I hope that women's boxing in Japan can become even more popular."
That defiant message was echoed by Irma Testa, the bronze medallist from Italy.
"I can only say that I am really proud," said the 23-year-old, who had also made a small piece of boxing history for her country.
"For me it was really important to win a medal in order to make women's boxing in Italy more popular.
"So it's the first medal ever for women's boxing (in Italy), and with this medal I can show young girls in Italy that boxing is also a sport for women, not just men.
"I think today is proof of that."
Underlining the challenge that women's boxing still faces for recognition in some countries and the stereotypes that endure, Irie said that some people have the impression that women fighters "are violent or scary or aggressive".
"That's not the case," she said.
"I want to wipe out those aggressive images of boxers."