Olympics: Tragic Venezuela boxer says bronze medal will change life

Yoel Finol of Venezuela competes in the men's fly (52kg) semi-finals.
Yoel Finol of Venezuela competes in the men's fly (52kg) semi-finals.PHOTO: REUTERS

RIO DE JANEIRO (AFP) - An Olympic flyweight whose former trainer killed his sister and then himself celebrated winning Venezuela's first boxing medal in 32 years on Friday and said he expected it to herald a new start in his traumatic life.

All-action Yoel Finol, 19, has always dreamed of gold but was still delighted to make do with Rio Games bronze after a heartbreaking defeat in his semi-final when he lost on unanimous points to Uzbekistan's Shakhobidin Zoirov.

His medal caps an extraordinary journey after he was lured into boxing by an uncle and then trained by his brother-in-law Edwin Valero, a two-weight world champion who was to later end his career unbeaten with 27 wins, all by knock-out.

Despite being an unbeaten champion Valero's life began to unravel in a blur of drink and drugs and in April 2010 he stabbed to death his wife Carolina - Finol's sister.

Two days later, while in police custody, Valero committed suicide.

In the aftermath of tragedy, Finol vowed to win Olympic gold but had to earn money the only way he knew how - fighting on the streets to earn cash to fund his ambitions.

"Those are things that can happen in life," Finol said of losing his sister in such brutal fashion. "It was really sad because I lost my sister but it's been six years and those are things that you overcome. I've forgiven him and I'm OK now.

"Life changes when you win a medal, not only as a human being but as a sportsman. I still need to get back to my country and see how things are gonna be but I know my life is gonna change."

And he is positive of even better days to come in the ring too, with the 2020 Tokyo Olympics already on his radar.

"I still have a long career ahead of me and I believe that every day we get better at handling ourselves in the ring," he said. "We learn new things every day and Tokyo is still four years away and little by little, I'm going to learn a lot before that happens."

Zoirov - whom Finol gamely kissed on the top of the head and applauded when the decision came through - will go up against Misha Aloian in Sunday's final after the Russian outpointed China's Hu Jianguan.