TOKYO (Reuters) -Japan’s self-described “unathletic” Sena Irie upset featherweight world champion Nesthy Petecio of the Philippines to take Olympic gold by unanimous decision on Tuesday, delivering the host nation’s maiden medal in women’s boxing.
The 20-year-old university student looked light on her feet as she peppered Petecio with jabs and capped the third round with a convincing combination.
Yet the woman nicknamed ‘Irie-wani’ – Japanese for saltwater crocodile – said she was not a natural athlete, adding she hoped her victory would encourage others who felt they weren’t talented at sports.
“I’m really not good at sports, so I feel like I could kind of show kids who also aren’t athletic that they can accomplish something if they don’t give up,” she told reporters after.
She and Petecio both shed tears on the podium, with the Filipina looking overcome with emotion as she clutched her silver medal to her chest.
“Before I knew it I was on the podium and the national anthem was playing. Somehow I had become world no.1 and I became a little tearful,” Irie said.
Petecio, who was widely seen as favourite, also delivered a maiden medal for her country in women’s boxing. She dedicated the fight to her coaches, as well as the memory of a deceased friend, adding she was proud to be part of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community (LGBT).
Italian Irma Testa and Briton Karriss Artingstall were awarded bronze.
Although taking place without spectators, a few dozen Japanese, clad in the blue t-shirts of venue volunteers, lined the upper balcony of the Kokugikan Arena to cheer.
They were more subdued than a much smaller contingent of Petecio fans, who appeared to be from her national delegation, and lit up the venue with cheering and flag-waving.
In men’s boxing, top-ranked heavyweight Muslim Gadzhimagomedov of the Russian Olympic Committee made it through to the finals after he overcame David Nyika of New Zealand.
American featherweight Duke Ragan beat Ghana’s Samuel Takyi to make it to the finals.
Takyi’s bronze will be Ghana’s first Olympic medal since 1992, when their men’s soccer team took bronze at Barcelona. It marks the West African country’s fourth gold overall.
“I’m going to correct my mistakes,” Takyi said after the fight. “I’m not going to lose again, I hate to lose.”
(Reporting by David Dolan; Editing by Michael Perry)