PH taekwondo jins vie for Olympic berths

Published May 14, 2021, 10:30 AM

by Kristel Satumbaga-Villar

Pauline Lopez (MB File Photo)

Four national taekwondo jins left for Amman, Jordan on Thursday night, May 13, as they seek Tokyo Olympic berths in the Asian Qualification Tournament set May 21 to 22.

Elaine Alora, who competed in the 2016 Rio Olympics, aims for a second shot at the Games when she joins Pauline Lopez, Kurt Barbosa and Arven Alcantara.

Alora will compete in the women’s +67kg division, Lopez in women’s -56kgs, and Barbosa and Alcantara in men’s -58kgs and -68kgs.

Photo from PTA

Accompanied by coaches Caloy Padilla and Al Christian Dela Cruz, the team hopes to catch the last bus with less than 10 weeks left before the Olympics scheduled July 23 to Aug. 8.

The top 2 athletes in each weight class will earn Olympic berths.

Coach Dindo Simpao, who has been with the team during training, is confident of the team’s chances.

“We expect to earn a couple of tickets to the Olympics. If not four,” said Simpao during the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) Hour guesting recently.

The athletes are raring to get back in competition after spending the last couple of months in rigorous training in a bubble camp at the Inspire Sports Academy in Calamba, Laguna.

Lopez, who came close to earning an Olympic berth in 2016, said she has grown a lot entering this competition.

“I think I’ve had more experience over the last years and those experiences helped me where I am now,” said Lopez, a two-time Southeast Asian Games gold medalist and 2018 Asian Games bronze winner.

“I’ve experienced Asian qualifying. I almost tasted getting there. I feel like I have nothing to lose and just give my best out there and hope that it will give me a chance to play in the Olympics.”

Alora, who is now competing in a heavier weight class compared to where she competed in the previous Olympics, said she focused on improving her power and speed to prepare for her rivals.

Though being sidelined for months due to quarantine restrictions, Alora believes other athletes abroad have also experienced similar predicaments brought by the pandemic.

“Marami ding affected na countries kaya feeling ko equal footing lang naman kaming mga magko-compete. Lahat kami dream makapag-compete sa Olympics, lahat kami gutom,” said Alora, who was the country’s flag bearer in the closing ceremony of the 2016 Rio Games.