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Team USA’s young Olympic hopeful Antonio Vargas caused a stir at the 2015 Pan-American Games when he overcame a strong flyweight line up to take the gold in Toronto. The 18 year-old, who swept aside the likes of Cuba’s Yosbany Veitia on route to the podium, is now focused on qualification for Rio 2016, and AIBA caught up with him to see how preparations are going and what he expects from an exciting Olympic year.

Congratulations on your gold medal in Toronto, how did it feel to win?

I feel very blessed to have won such a major tournament, but I knew that I had it in me to take the gold.

How did you find the Pan-American Games experience?

It felt good being surrounded by top athletes and positive people. I know I can use that experience to my advantage at the forthcoming Rio 2016 Olympic Games.

You defeated world class boxers from Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Costa Rica and Cuba, but which was your most difficult bout in Toronto?

My first fight was the toughest, in the preliminaries when I met Dominican Republic’s Leonel De Los Santos. He is a very fast boxer and highly experienced so I had to be at my best to beat him.

How did you celebrate winning Pan-American gold?

It was just a really simple celebration with a family dinner because I had to start preparations for the next competitions, including the Rio 2016 qualification events.

What first got you into boxing?

I started boxing at the age of nine. My father used to box when he was a kid and he introduced me to the sport back in 2005.

Who are your biggest inspirations in boxing?

My father and God.

What is your biggest strength in the ring?

I think my explosive hand and foot speeds are what have brought me most success so far.

Talk us through a typical day for Antonio Vargas.

An average day for me starts off with a morning run following a light work out. After that I get some rest followed by another training session in the afternoon. I’m trying to increase my stamina and perfect my style, so I’ll average about 20 hours of training a week at the moment.

What is your target for 2016?

I am confident. My plan is to win the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.