PAULINE Lopez claimed the country’s first and only gold medal in the 22nd Asian Taekwondo Championship after beating South Korea’s Lee Ah-Reum, 8-6, on Wednesday at the Marriott Grand Ballroom in Pasay City.
Left in tears after coming one win short of a berth in the Rio De Janeiro Olympics days earlier, Lopez was on the winning end this time around as she beat the defending champion of the women’s -57kg division at the close of the Asian championship.
“This is surreal,” said Lopez, who was cheered on by her relatives led by grandfather Adriano Dela Cruz. “I always trusted in God’s plan for me. This victory is sweet.”
The 19-year-old Los Angeles-based jin said she got a lot of encouragement from his father Efren, a former national athlete, following the defeat in the Olympic qualifiers.
“He called me to encourage me and said forget about what happened,” said Lopez who beat Jeddi Mahsla of Iran, 7-5, in the semifinals, and downed Sae-Lao Thanapa of Thailand, 6-3, in the quarterfinal round.
Aside from Lopez’s gold, the Philippines also got a silver from Kristopher Uy, and a bronze from Olympic-bound Kirstie Elaine Alora.