PAULINE Louise Lopez tried to hide her tears as she made her way out of the competition area of the Asian Qualification Tournament in taekwondo as the packed Marriott Grand Ballroom crowd cheered her on after falling short of a berth in the Rio De Janeiro Olympics.
At the end of her 5-2 semifinal loss in the women’s -57kg division to Phaanap Harnsujin of Thailand on Sunday, however, Lopez said she is more driven to pursue her dream of making to the Olympics someday.
“I just thanked everyone for the undying support by the Filipinos. I didn’t make it to the Olympics which is my dream but this kinda ignite another light in me to aim for the next one,” said Lopez, referring to the 2020 Olympics.
On Sunday, Lopez, only 19 years old, came one win away from landing a spot in the Olympics, where her teammate Kirstie Elaine Alora had already earned a ticket a day earlier.
In the first round, Phaanap’s camp asked for a video review when their fighter was able to land a foot to the top of Lopez’s head. The judges decided that it was a legitimate hit to the head that merited three points for the Thai.
Lopez thought otherwise.
“I don’t think it was a valid call. However, it was the referee’s decision. The rules say that if it hits the head, since it’s electronic, they score three points. If it hits it here (top of the head), then it’s the judges’ decision and you can use the replay.”
The review proved to be critical as Lopez was forced to play catch up in the later rounds to no avail. Phaanap later scored on a punch in the third round for a 4-0 lead, and despite two points by Lopez on two penalties by her Thai opponent, the lead proved too much to overcome.
“She was definitely a challenge but I think the term I guess in Tagalog is ‘naunahan niya ako’ and that’s what happened,” said the Los Angeles-based Lopez.
Her Olympic dream in tatters, Lopez was naturally disappointed with the result.
“I just feel like this is a once in a lifetime chance,” said Lopez, putting on a brae face when interviewed by reporters. “Just coming here and being here is definitely an honor to represent my country, my family back home in the States, the Filipinos all over the world.
"But at the same time, I don’t want to say I let them (the Filipinos) down. There’s kind of an upset (feeling) in me but like I said, I just have to keep moving forward.”
Lopez said it will be tough for her to relay the news of her defeat to her parents.
“It will be rough breaking the news to them. I’m sure they know but when it comes to me, it’s something else,” said Lopez. “Like I said, it ignited another light in me to pursue the next Olympics."