OLYMPICS: Tiniest man in Philippine team bears heaviest burden

London (Philippine Daily Inquirer/ANN) - Divers perform synchronised underwater swimming at Manila Ocean Park on Friday to show support for the Filipino Olympians competing in the 2012 London Olympics. Photo by Nino Jesus Orbeta

Of the 11 Filipinos seeing action in the 30th Olympic Games, the tiniest man also carries the heaviest burden.

Mark Anthony Barriga, the lone boxer in the delegation, weighs only 49 kilogrammes (107.8 lbs.), placing him in the light flyweight division of the boxing competitions in London.

Boxing had been the Philippines' only source of hope in previous Olympic delegations, but that aspiration appeared to be almost beyond reach with only one Filipino fighter qualifying for the Olympics.

Arriving recently from Cardiff in Wales where he trained for three weeks, Barriga is in London with enough confidence and experience to raise the expectations of his coach, Roel Velasco, and broadcaster-turned-amateur-boxing-official Ed Picson.

"I can say he's ready for the Olympics," said Picson. He added that Barriga, a native of Panabo, Davao del Norte, had impressed fans and fellow boxers in Cardiff during his sparring sessions with fellow Olympic aspirants in the run-up to the Games.

In fact, Filipinos in Cardiff were so impressed with Barriga's performance in training that they have started calling him Little Pacman, as the Pacman (aka Manny Pacquiao) was himself a light flyweight in the early days of his storied boxing career.

Chances good

"His chances are good," Velasco reported to former boxing chief Manny Lopez, now the Philippine delegation's chief of mission.

Velasco knows whereof he speaks. He himself won a bronze medal as a light flyweight in the Barcelona Olympics in 1992, while his brother Mansueto won the silver medal in the same division in Atlanta four years later.

No Filipino has won a medal since then. Velasco believes his ward would finally break that long medal drought in London.

Barriga starts that quest on Tuesday.

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