Olympic boxer Carlos Balerdas is scheduled to return to Santa Maria this afternoon when he arrives at the Santa Maria Public Airport at 1:24 p.m. Balderas' father Zenon says the community is invited to attend and cheer on the boxing star as he arrives back in his hometown.
The Santa Maria native is heading back home after a successful run in Rio de Janeiro. While the 20-year-old Balderas did not win a medal competing in the men's lightweight (132 pounds) division, he thrilled his many fans on the Central Coast and across the country with a pair of victories before losing to top-seeded Lazaro Alvarez of Cuba in a quarterfinal match.
Earning a spot on the U.S. Olympic team fulfilled a lifelong dream for not only Balderas, but also his entire family, which immigrated from Mexico. Balderas took up the sport at a young age, showing promise soon after lacing up his first boxing gloves at the age of seven.
Displaying the same strong work ethic that is a common trait with the rest of his family, Balderas quickly established himself as an up-and-coming boxing star, earning numerous titles, such as the Junior and Youth Open championships. He later competed in the 2015 Pan Am Games in Toronto and was the first American boxer to qualify for the 2016 Olympics during the World Series of Boxing qualification series.