Ramos overwhelmed in Olympic bout
Agence France Presse
Ramos overwhelmed in Olympic bout
SYDNEY, Sept 17
East Timorese boxer Victor Ramos was dumped out of the Olympic boxing tournament in a flurry of punches here Sunday night.
Ramos, 30, fighting as an Individual Olympic Athlete in the lightweight category, lasted until 1:37 into the second round of the four-round contest before going under to Ghana's Raymond Narh on points 15-0.
The fight was ended by Russian referee Stanislav Kirsanov under the competition's 15-point rule.
The special International Olympic Committee (IOC) ruling, only the second of its kind in Olympic history following Yugoslavia's participation at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, enabled Ramos to compete in Sydney even though East Timor does not yet fulfil criteria for formal Olympic recognition.
"I expected the Ghanaian to be strong. I feel well, but I'm not happy that the fight finished in the second round," Ramos said through an interpreter.
"The people back home are sure to be watching me on television and I'm very upset that the fight was stopped in the second round.
"Even though I lost tonight I will keep on training my hardest and with the equipment that I will be supplied with I will be able to do my training to prepare myself for future Games."
Ramos, a former Indonesia boxing champion, and his family had to flee their home in Dili as pro-Jakarta militias went on a campaign of killing and arson rampage following East Timor's vote for independence in August 1999.
Team leader Frank Fowlie said Ramos would not be making any political comments about the situation in East Timor while he was here for the Olympics.
"There is an undertaking given by each member of the the Independent Athlete delegation to participate as an individual athlete and not as a member of an national olympic committee," said Fowlie.
"So they cannot mention anything political - this is not a proper venue for politics, the story of their lives has been well reported in the media."
Fowlie said it was planned for Olympic solidarity funding for a boxing club in Dili.
"An Olympic aide has said they are very interested in working with partners to build training facilities that boxing and weightlifting equipment can go into a multi-purpose building," said Fowlie.
The other East Timorese independent athletes here are marathoners, Aguida Amaral, 25, and Calisto Da Costa, 22 and weightlifter Martinho De Araujo, 27.
East Timor received permission from the IOC on May 26 to compete as Independent Athletes at the Sydney Olympics following pleas by East Timorese independence hero and Nobel laureate Jose Ramos-Horta.
He won the support of UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, Australian Prime Minister John Howard and the government of Portugal.
OLYMPIC GAMES: BOXING - RAMOS DEFEAT WINS VICTORY FOR RAVAGED LAND AND SPIRIT OF SPORT
VICTOR RAMOS'S Olympic life lasted two minutes, 23 seconds. It was snuffed out by a tall Ghanaian lightweight named Raymond Narh. The referee stopped the contest after deciding that the West African was scoring too freely on the man from the ravaged land of East Timor, whose people for the moment lack both a flag and official nationhood.
Those are the facts of one fraction of Olympic action but they are not really the story.
Ramos, who bowed politely to the referee even as he fought back his tears of frustration, went to the core of it when he said: "I lost the fight but I represented my people at the Olympics - and I think they are like me. They carry their flag and their nation in their hearts."
A small group of Ramos's compatriots, including his wife Domingaz - they married last year in a refugee camp while bullets fired by raiding Indonesian militiamen flew overhead - cheered him on and waved the banner of Falintil, East Timor's liberation movement. Their applause survived the early stoppage. Rarely before in the history of the Olympics can there have been such resonance in the claim that the important thing is not to win but to compete.
Ramos, who carried the white Olympic flag into Stadium Australia before an audience of 110,000 at the opening ceremony, until recently survived in the hills near the East Timor capital of Dili by sleeping with his family under piles of leaves. After they escaped the city, with 60 kilos of rice, their home was burned down by the militiamen. The Ramos family hid by day and in the night they made their dormitory of leaves as the machete-wielding militiamen roamed in search of victims. This life of the barest survival lasted until the arrival of UN troops. When Ramos came down from the hills he discovered his former gym had been used as a place of torture and execution. The UN troops found blood and flesh on the walls. It was a nightmare that started when his former mentor, an old boxer, was hacked to death in a square of Dili as he attempted to raise the flag of the liberation movement. The militiamen warned him to stop, prodding him with their machetes. He refused and they hacked at him before bundling him into a car.
"They were terrible times and we can never forget them," says Ramos, "but we can start to make a normal life - and coming to the Olympics was the start of it." One of Ramos's three team-mates danced and clapped his hands above his head when he came into the Olympic stadium, and provoked wild enthusiasm in the crowd. He was weightlifter Martino de Araugo, whose lost all his equipment when his house was burned down. He replaced his barbells with paint cans filled with concrete and hung from a steel bar. "I never really new what weight I was lifting," said De Araugo, "only that it was heavy."
The Marathon runner Aguida Amarai also lost all her possessions, including her running shoes. She ran barefoot until an Australian Olympic official placed her feet on a piece of paper, drew their outline and ordered her new shoes.
The team - which is listed as Individual Olympic Athletes - was formed at the suggestion of the UN secretary-general, Kofi Annan. He said that the people of East Timor desperately needed some lifting of morale. The job of organising the project was handed to Frank Fowlie, a UN security man and former Canadian Mountie whose mission had been to track down drug runners in the Arctic, and he recalls: "I thought the best we could hope for was a shot at the 2004 Olympics in Athens, but an extraordinary message came back from the International Olympic Committee. It said: 'Go for it now.'
"The important thing was to give these people some hope for the future, and by coming here the athletes have shown such spirit everyone has been heartened."
Olympic broadcasts are being beamed into churches and meeting halls of a land still reeling from the latest act of random violence which saw three UN helpers and 11 refugees killed. Recognition of nationhood, and a new constitution, are expected to be ratified before the end of the year. The Olympic experience was supposed to be an interim celebration.
The Ramos fight was not guaranteed to create cheering in the streets, but Fowlie argues: "The very fact that Victor Ramos had the nerve to get in the ring so soon after his ordeal represents amazing fortitude to me. This is a man whose main preoccupation for so long has been just to stay alive.
"Somehow he has kept himself and his family together. It's amazing when you think about it."
Said Ramos: "I was very disappointed by the decision to stop the fight. Of course I wanted to go on. You must remember that since the problems in my country I've had just two months of preparation. In the first round I took a lot of punishment but I was beginning to adjust to the speed of the fight. I planned to take the fight to him in the next three rounds." It was a strategy that, perhaps unsurprisingly, was not undermined by any lack of courage.
What the 30-year-old Ramos lacked was any recent familiarity with the demands of top-flight competition. Once he represented Indonesia, but that was in another lifetime, before he was placed on a hit list for being friendly with an old boxing man who had ideas about freedom.
Ramos had made another dramatic transition in the course of a few days. He moved from the exhilaration of parading before the world as a man who had regained some pride in who he was and where he came from to the colder reality of fighting a younger, stronger and, it has to be said, more talented boxer. Whenever Nahr hit him, which was often, Ramos's headguard slipped a little further towards his eyes. But he never flinched. He took the fight to Nahr with unblinking determination.
In the gym in Darwen in Australia's Northern Territory, where the team had been moved because it was the nearest place with proper facilities and a similar climate to that of East Timor, Ramos had worked slavishly under the guidance of Boyd Scully, a former Australian Olympic boxer. Said Fowlie: "No one could have been more committed to representing his country. Victor did everything he could, as fighter and a man who loved his country." And, arguably, the longest-shot Olympian of them all.
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