PH taekwondo team banking on homecourt edge in bid for Rio Olympic berths
(From left) Pauline Lopez, Raul Samson, and coach Igor Mella during the weekly Philippine Sportswriters Association (PSA) Forum at Shakey's Malate. Gerry Ramos

THE Philippine taekwondo team hopes the home crowd works wonders in the country’s coming campaign in the Asian Taekwondo Qualifier to the Rio De Janeiro Olympics.

As host of the April 16-17 meet at the Marriot Grand Ballroom Convention Center, a lot of factors are definitely going the way of the Filipino jins, according to coach Igor Mella, including crowd support, of which they hardly had the benefit when competing overseas.

“I hope the Filipino fans and enthusiasts will be there to really cheer strong for the team. That’s one thing we couldn’t have when we’re outside the country competing,” said Mella when he appeared in the weekly Philippine Sportswriters Association (PSA) Forum at Shakey’s Malate to talk about the biggest event in local taekwondo this year.

“We’re hoping for the best result for our team. Malaking bagay yung hindi ka na mag-aacclimatize, at hindi ka na mag-aadjust sa time. And yung sa venue, we’ll make sure na we get used to it already kung anu man yung environment doon,” added Mella.

The national team indeed, needs all the advantages it can get especially with countries now only allowed to send two male and two female athletes since the Olympics merged the different weight categories in taekwondo.

Add to that, only gold and silver medalists in the qualifier will earn berths to the Rio Games set this August.

“So that means not even a semifinal is a guarantee of going to the Olympics. You really have to reach the finals and assured a silver para maka-Olympics ka,” said competition manager Raul Samson in the public sports program presented by San Miguel Corp., Accel, Shakey’s, and the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp.

At the moment, Samson said the Philippine Taekwondo Association (PTA) has six jins undergoing rigid training in the hope of representing the country in next month’s qualifier, including Pauline Lopez, who was also a guest in the same weekly forum.

Lopez, gold medal winner in the 28th Southeast Asian Games in Singapore last year and the Asian Youth Games in 2013, said he arrived in the country from the US last January and has been training for the qualifier three times a day.

“It’s been rigid, it’s been tough,” she said.

On April 18, the Asian Taekwondo Poomsae Championship and Asian Taekwondo Para Open Championship will also be held here, followed by the 22nd edition of the Asian Taekwondo Championship set April 19-20.


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