Kurt Barbosa became the ninth Filipino to qualify to the 2021 Tokyo Olympics after winning in the semifinals of the Asian Taekwondo Qualification Tournament in Amman, Jordan Saturday night, May 22.
Barbosa, a 2019 Southeast Asian Games gold medalist, delivered the crucial blows in the dying five seconds including a last-second kick that sealed his 50-49 victory over hometown bet Zaid Al-Halawani in the men’s -58kgs.
The win earned Barbosa one of the two berths at stake in his weight class with fellow Olympic qualifier Ramnarong Sawekwiharee of Thailand clinching the other ticket after prevailing over Haroon Khan of Saudi Arabia, 32-26.
Earlier, Barbosa bested 2014 Asian Games bronze medalist Molomyn Tumenbayar of Mongolia, 40-33, in the quarterfinals.
Barbosa refused to give up the fight against Al-Halawani after trailing 41-28 with 1:14 left in the third round by slowly racking up points against his taller rival.
He was actually trailing 48-43 in the last 21 seconds, but still remained aggressive until the final buzzer.
With his feat, Barbosa joins pole vaulter EJ Obiena, world champion gymnast Carlos Yulo, 2016 Rio Olympics silver medalist Hidilyn Diaz of weightlifting, and boxers Nesthy Petecio, Carlo Paalam, Irish Magno and Eumir Marcial to the Tokyo Games slated July 23 to Aug. 8.
Not so fortunate was Elaine Alora, who fell short of her bid for a second straight Olympic appearance after yielding to Svetlana Osipova of Uzbekistan, 27-5, in the women’s +67kgs.
Alora only needed to win this match to qualify to the Olympics as there were only four athletes in her weight division, but Osipova, a 2017 Asian Indoor and Martial Arts games silver medalist, was a tough nut to crack.
The Filipino bet settled for the consolation bronze after beating Mokhru Kalimova of Tajikistan, 9-7.
Pauline Lopez and Arven Alcantara also failed in their Olympic qualifying bid in the women’s -57kgs and men’s -68kgs.
Philippine Sports Commission chairman Butch Ramirez and Philippine Olympic Committee president Bambol Tolentino lauded Barbosa’s never-say-die attitude.
“I was watching him play. He was very confident and calm. I salute him for his mental and physical toughness. I’m very happy for him, his coaches and staff for this achievement,” Ramirez said.
“I saw the fight on YouTube. Deserving talaga,” said Tolentino.
Al Panlilio, President of the Manny V. Pangilinan Sports Foundation that has been supporting taekwondo for the past years, also congratulated Barbosa.
“Kurt Barbosa gave the Filipino people a timely reminder that as long as there’s still time left on the clock, we need to keep fighting,” Panlilio said.
“Even if Kurt was down big in the third round, his belief in himself never wavered and now he is an Olympian.”