GUADALAJARA, Mexico – The six-man SMART/MVP Sports Foundation Philippine Taekwondo Team returns home Tuesday (22 Nov 2022) from a tough campaign in the World Taekwondo Championship here without a single medal but gained enough experience they can use in 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 class which team manager and former World Championship campaigner Raul ‘Rocky’ Samson considered an achievement for Pinoy fighters considering the presence of the world best and more experienced jins in this tough Round-of-64 best-of-three knockout tournament.
But it was only the farthest they got.
“Despite the disadvantage in heigh, 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.
“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.
On the three quarterfinalists, Samson stressed that the 24-year-old Chua was the best example on how talented and strong the Filipino fighter as the calmly but gutsy National University standout, a rookie in an international competition made a winning run against highly favorite 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) was totally mind-blowing. He missed the podium with a 0-2 loss to Cala Jorquera of Spain (0-2).
“Without a single international exposure pero nakita natin yung potential ni Joseph (Chua). Konting hasa pa, mabibigyan tayo ng magandang laban niyan in the future,” said Samson.
Barbosa, on the other hand, was the country’s best jin and his almost two months 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 yung bara sa weight class niya, kung nalagpasan niya, Malaki ang tyansa niya na makuha ang gold medal,” said Samson.
The Hungarian eventually claimed the gold beating hometown hero Cesar Rodriguez.
The other member of the team SEA Games medalists Leila Delo and Baby Jessica Canabal and another newbie Alfritz Arevalo failed to past their Round-of-64 match, but still national coach Caloy Padilla and Paul Romero are both convinced that the three are foce to reckon with comes the regional meet next year. (ai/mtvn)