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Wichita’s Nico Hernandez qualifies for boxing at Rio Olympics

Nico Hernandez jumps after learning he had won his match Thursday over Argentinian Leandro Blanc and qualified for the Rio Olympics in August. Hernandez won the light flyweight match in Bueno Aires.
Nico Hernandez jumps after learning he had won his match Thursday over Argentinian Leandro Blanc and qualified for the Rio Olympics in August. Hernandez won the light flyweight match in Bueno Aires. Courtesy USA Boxing

The moment came, and all Nico Hernandez could do was jump.

“Once they said my name … that’s how happy I was,” said Hernandez, who on Thursday became Wichita’s first Olympian in 12 years by winning his qualifying bout at the Americas boxing qualifier in Buenos Aires.

Hernandez, a 20-year-old light flyweight (108 pounds), will be on the U.S. boxing team in the Rio de Janeiro Olympics in August.

“I don’t know how to explain it,” Hernandez said in a phone interview. “I was thinking about it all night last night, how it was going to feel if I had won.”

Hernandez said two months ago it was a goal he’d been working for all his life. Thursday, with his family watching in Wichita via livestream and through social media, his hand was raised after the three-round bout, defeating Argentina’s Leando Blanc in a unanimous decision.

“My coaches told me they thought I had won the first round, then after the second round they said it was really close,” Hernandez said. “Whoever won the third round was probably going to win. Once they told me that, my mentality was to wear him down.”

Hernandez would’ve had other chances to make the U.S. team in qualifying tournaments, but those aren’t needed anymore.

Hernandez will be the 14th Olympian to call Wichita home and the first since swimmer Caroline Bruce in 2004. Jim Ryun (track) competed in three Games and Lynette Woodard (basketball) was a member of two U.S. teams, though the 1980 team did not compete in the Moscow Games.

Hernandez, who graduated from North High, is the first boxer from Wichita to qualify. He won the Olympic trials in December and needed to win twice in Buenos Aires. He defeated Venezuelan Angelino Cordova on Wednesday.

Boxing in Rio will run from Aug. 6-21.

Wichitans in the Olympics

1932

Jim Bausch, track and field

1936

Harold Manning, track and field

1960

Jeff Farrell, swimming

1964

Jim Ryun, track and field

1968

Jim Ryun, track and field

1972

Jim Ryun, track and field

x-1980

Ron Neugent, swimming

Darnell Valentine, basketball

Lynette Woodard, basketball

1984

Marc Waldie, volleyball

Lynette Woodard, basketball

1988

Mark Lewis, bowling

1992

Kym Carter, track and field

Darren Dreifort, baseball

Chris Wimmer, baseball

2004

Caroline Bruce, swimming

x-The U.S. team did not participate in the 1980 Moscow Games.

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