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Monday, November 19 , 2018, 10:25 am | Fair with Haze 65º

 
 
 
 

Olympic Boxer Carlos Balderas Welcomed Home to Santa Maria

Family members, friends and fans greet him at Santa Maria Public Airport

Santa Maria boxer Carlos Balderas, who turns 20 Wednesday, returns home Tuesday from the Rio Olympic Games after reaching the quarterfinal round. Click to view larger
Santa Maria boxer Carlos Balderas, who turns 20 Wednesday, returns home Tuesday from the Rio Olympic Games after reaching the quarterfinal round. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

Olympic boxer Carlos Balderas returned home to a hero’s welcome on Tuesday in Santa Maria.

Dozens of family members and fans mobbed Balderas at the Santa Maria Public Airport upon his early afternoon arrival, with people jockeying into position to pose for pictures with him for nearly an hour after his plane landed.

Balderas made it to the quarterfinal round in the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro where he was ousted by Cuba’s Lazaro Alvarez, who had won a bronze medal as a bantamweight at the 2012 Olympics.

Those who attended the arrival party brought balloons, flags and signs while Mariachi Los Mejor de Jalisco played in the terminal.

“Man, it's been crazy,”​ Balderas said. “Just knowing the type of support I have, win, lose or draw, I know I've got a lot of family, friends, a whole city behind me. Obviously, I'm a little devastated because of the loss, but as of right now I'm just looking forward to spending time with my family.”

He arrived home just in time for his birthday — he turns 20 on Wednesday — and was looking forward to celebrating in his hometown.

“Rio was a life-changing experience for me,” he said, already mulling his future options. “Due to the fact that I'm very young, I can wait another four years and go to Tokyo or I might just go pro. I'll talk to my people.

“It was a great experience,” he said, adding he was excited he was able to experience the Olympics with his extended family. 

Well-wishers were armed with signs, balloons and flags Tuesday at the Santa Maria Public Airport for the arrival of boxer Carlos Balderas, returning from the Rio Olympic games. Click to view larger
Well-wishers were armed with signs, balloons and flags Tuesday at the Santa Maria Public Airport for the arrival of boxer Carlos Balderas, returning from the Rio Olympic games.  (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

Despite competing on a worldwide stage in a front of a huge audience, he found he wasn't overwhelmed by the boos and cheers, Balderas said.

“When USA would enter the venue, the whole stadium would just vibrate because there was so much noise,” he said. “I think that's what it was, that I didn't really worry so much about the pressure.”

With two possible paths for the boxer to pursue in the future, Balderas said his dad and uncle will help decide which route he should take amid reports Oscar De La Hoya wants to sign the Santa Maria boxer.

“I heard that he was trying to sign me and stuff, and that he was interested, but that's really up to my dad and my uncle,” he said. “I've got a lot of offers, too. I'm just going to wait a little. Like I said, I'm not sure if I'm going to wait for Toyko or turn pro.”

For the next few days, he has plans to relax with family and friends who supported him in the road to Rio.

“It was a long journey and a long few months and I'm looking forward to a new chapter,” Balderas said.

Olympic boxer Carlos Balderas of Santa Maria spent nearly an hour posing for pictures after flying into the Santa Maria Public Airport on Tuesday. Click to view larger
Olympic boxer Carlos Balderas of Santa Maria spent nearly an hour posing for pictures after flying into the Santa Maria Public Airport on Tuesday.        (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

While traveling and competing to earn a spot in the Olympics, Balderas graduated from Santa Maria High School last year. 

His name is legally spelled Carlos, and appeared that way through official Olympic references, but he prefers and uses the spelling Karlos, accounting for why both have been used.

Balderas began boxing as a 7-year-old when his father was looking for activities to keep the boy out of trouble.

“Thank you for inspiring thousand of kids to stay in school and to play sports,” his dad Zenon Balderas posted on Facebook. “Many of them are already dreaming with the Olympics. Thank you for those incredible and memorable fights, because to us you are more valuable than gold.”

Tuesday's was the first of several celebrations of the Olympic boxer's accomplishments.

On his birthday, the family’s gym will hold will a meet and greet with the boxer from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Balderas School of Boxing, 2330 Westgate Road, Unit 13&14.

Balderas also is scheduled to greet fans at the Downtown Friday event this week in the Santa Maria Town Center West parking lot, with a ceremony planned for 6:15 p.m. Friday. Participants will include city leaders, Santa Maria High School cheerleaders, the Saints marching band and others. 

The Santa Maria Valley Chamber of Commerce will distribute 200 small American flags donated by the Santa Maria Elks Lodge for the celebration.

Margarito Balderas, an uncle, holds a small American flag while awaiting the arrival of Olympic boxer Carlos Balderas’s United Express flight at the Santa Maria Public Airport. Click to view larger
Margarito Balderas, an uncle, holds a small American flag while awaiting the arrival of Olympic boxer Carlos Balderas’s United Express flight at the Santa Maria Public Airport. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

The boxer is one of two Santa Maria Valley residents to compete in the Olympics this summer. Orcutt resident Josh Prenot, who was in the Santa Maria Swim Club, won a silver medal in the 200 meter breaststroke event in Rio.

Downtown Fridays co-organizer Ed Carcarey said plans are being discussed to honor Prenot on another day.

The city also installed banners at Perlman Park, corner of Broadway and Main Street (Highways 135 and 166), to welcome home the Olympians.

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

A huge group of well-wishers greets Olympic boxer Carlos Balderas as he returns to Santa Maria from Rio. Click to view larger
A huge group of well-wishers greets Olympic boxer Carlos Balderas as he returns to Santa Maria from Rio.                    (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

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