Guadalajara—The six-man SMART/MVP Sports Foundation Philippine Taekwondo Team returned on Tuesday from a tough campaign in the Guadalajara World Championship, without a single medal but gained enough experience they can use to become better fighters for the future international competitions.
Tokyo Olympian Kurt Barbosa, Southeast Asian Games multi-medalist Dave Cea and newbie Joseph Chua made it to the quarterfinals in their respective weight classes, which team manager and former World Championship campaigner Raul ‘Rocky’ Samson considered an achievement for Pinoy fighters considering the presence of the world’s best and more experienced jins.
“Despite the disadvantage in height, experience and exposure from top-tier competitions, our players showed what they have against seasoned opponents in terms of skills, talents and understanding under pressure,” said Samson.
He stressed that the 24-year-old Chua was the best example on how talented and strong Filipino fighters are as the National University standout, a rookie at that in an international competition, made a winning run against highly favored opponents.
His first win against Finland’s Niko Saarinem via 2-1 decision in the men’s -63 was surprising, but his victories against American Mik Roman (2-0) and Italian D. Bareta (2-1) were totally mind-blowing. He missed the podium with a 0-2 loss to Cala Jorquera of Spain (0-2).
Barbosa, on the other hand, was the country’s best jin and his almost two months of training in Korea before the competition proved beneficial as the two-time SEAG champion pulled off an overwhelming win against Andres Moreno of Columbia (2-0) and bull-strong Khudaybeerdiev of Uzbekistan (2-1) in the men’s -54kgs. His first match against Sanoh Lomcom of Gunie was an easy default.
“Yung laban niya kay Salim Omar Gergen ng Hungary sa quarterfinals, ‘yun ang bara sa weight class niya, kung nalagpasan niya, malaki ang tiyansa niya na makuha ang gold medal,” said Samson.
The Hungarian eventually claimed the gold, beating hometown bet Cesar Rodriguez.
Other members of the team in SEA Games medalists Leila Delo and Baby Jessica Canabal and another newbie Alfritz Arevalo failed to get past their Round-of-64 matches, but national coach Caloy Padilla and Paul Romero are both convinced that they will be forces to reckon with in the regional meet next year.
“Yes, in the end experience prevails, pero itong exposure nila malaking bagay sa kanilang mental toughness and readiness for the future international competitions including the SEA Games, Asian Games, Asian Indoor Championships and the World Championship happening next year,” Samson said.