Why Carlo Paalam’s Silver Olympic Medal is a Symbolic Win

Why Carlo Paalam’s Silver Olympic Medal is a Symbolic Win

Here’s why the medal hits home for the 23-year-old boxer!

The recently concluded Tokyo 2020 Olympics has been quite a historic one for the Philippines. The country has bagged a total of one gold, two silver, and one bronze — a pretty impressive feat considering most of its athletes are rookies going up against veterans and reigning champions. Case in point: Carlo Paalam, silver medallist for men’s flyweight boxing. 

The 23-year-old has proven himself to be a formidable opponent in his first ever Olympic stint. In the quarterfinal, he beat reigning Olympic champion, Shakhobidin Zoirov of Uzbekistan; whereas in the semis, he outboxed Japan’s Tanaka Ryomei. Not bad for someone who’s actually the youngest in the Philippines’ Tokyo 2020 boxing team!

Also read: The First Filipino Olympics Gold Medallist And Her Well-Earned Prizes

How he finished with an Olympic silver

On 7 Aug 2021, Carlo Paalam went against Great Britain’s Galal Yafai in the final match for the gold. Paalam suffered a knockdown in the first round, giving Yafai a major advantage. That also happens to be the first time that the Filipino boxer has ever touched canvas in his entire career. 

Paalam was able to keep going in the next two rounds, and even got all five judges’ scores for the third round. However, he lost via a split decision of 4-1, with four judges scoring it 29-28 for Yafai and one giving it 29-28 for Paalam. 

Aside from this Olympic silver medal, Paalam has also won several global competitions in recent years. He was a bronze medallist in the 2018 Asian Games and a champion in the 2019 Southeast Asian Games — which led him to qualify for Tokyo 2020 via rankings.

About Carlo Paalam and his silver Olympic medal

As he stood on the podium during the awarding ceremony, Paalam found a shared identity with his well-deserved silver medal. 

Many of you know by now that the 2020 Olympics medals are made entirely out of disposed electronics donated by Japanese citizens. But what many probably don’t know yet is that Paalam used to earn a living by scavenging for reusable refuse at a landfill in Cagayan de Oro City

“It symbolises my life. I came from scavengers, selling garbage scraps. [This medal] symbolises my life because this was built from broken gadgets… so it has a connection to my life,” he shared during an interview with Inquirer.net. 

There’s no doubt that Carlo Paalam’s story is all kinds of inspiring. Not that there was any shortage of those in this year’s Olympics. But there’s certainly something fateful (and even poetic) about a rookie’s journey from working as a scrap metal scavenger to earning an Olympic silver medal. A medal that coincidentally came from similar materials that his life previously revolved around. 

He is set to receive at least ₱17 million in cash incentives upon his return to the Philippines.

Also read: Australian Athlete Shows the Olympic Village Safety Protocols in Viral TikTok Video

In another interview with ABS-CBN News, Carlo Paalam said that he has not given thought to possibly turning professional. His dream of reaching the top of the podium in the Olympics (perhaps Paris 2024) remains. 

For now, he’s very much looking forward to returning home and reuniting with his loved ones. After that, he will likely be training for more major competitions in 2023:  the Southeast Asian Games and the Asian Games.

Featured image credit: Carlo Paalam | Official Instagram Page

About Author

Marcy Miniano
Marcy Miniano

A fast-talking caffeine-dependent wordsmith, Marcy has never been one to shy away from sharing a good story or two. If she’s not in a quiet coffee shop somewhere, she enjoys spending afternoons in a museum or art gallery — whether it’s around Metro Manila or a foreign city she’s visiting. She wishes to retire in a winter village someday, so she can fulfil her lifelong dream of wearing turtlenecks all year round and owning a pet penguin.


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