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    How Westbrook fueled taekwondo jin Kurt Barbosa's Olympic bid

    Jun 3, 2021
    PHOTO: @kurtesyyy on Instagram | AP

    TAEKWONDO jin Kurt Barbosa is a self-proclaimed Russell Westbrook fan.

    No wonder he used Westbrook’s highly popular slogan ‘Why Not?’ as hashtag in pursuing his dream to make the Olympics.

    Barbosa said he began to use the motto two years ago when he travelled to Korea and had his photo taken at the World Peace Gate, Olympic Park in Seoul which hosted the 1988 Summer Games.

    The photo which Barbosa posted on his Instagram account on Oct. 27, 2019, had the caption, ‘Step by step, my dream will come true.’ Followed by a prayer emoji and the #whynot.

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    The post proved to be prophetic as two years later, the UAAP Rookie-MVP from National University booked a ticket to the Tokyo Olympics and became the first Filipino male jin to make the quadrennial meet after Tshomlee Go did it back-to-back in 2004 (Athens) and 2008 (Beijing), respectively.

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    “Yung hastag ‘whynot,’ yun nga ‘bakit hindi’ sa Tagalog. Idol ko si Westbrook, eh. Yung time na nagti-triple double siya, sobrang lakas niya. Nanonood ako palagi, pina-follow ko siya. Tapos may mga hashtag siyang ‘WhyNot’ so doon ko yun talaga nagaya,” said Barbosa, who incidentally, is a Los Angeles Lakers fan.

    The now-popular Westbrook slogan dates back to his time at the Leuzinger High School in Lawndale, California, which the Washington Wizards star and his best friend used to preach as a means to do anything they put their minds to.

    The motto eventually grew that the player who now owns the most number of triple doubles in NBA history established the Russel Westbrook Why Not? Foundation, which aims to inspire the lives of children and teach them to never give up.

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    It even spawned a Why Not? Zer0.4 signature shoe under the Jordan brand.

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      As for the Olympic Park, Barbosa recalled he and his national teammates had to endure the long travel just to be able to have a photo of them taken in the famous tourist spot.

      “Byinahe talaga namin yun. Ang layo ng nilakad namin para makapagpa-picture lang doon,” said Barbosa, who is also into playing basketball himself.

      Standing at 5-foot-7, Barbosa knew he had the talent to play ball, along with sepak takraw, while growing up in his province in Bangued, Abra.

      But his parents pushed him to concentrate on taekwondo, knowing the future of their son is in the sport.

      “Pinigilan lang ako ng mga magulang ko. Sabi nila yung taekwondo ang focus mo kasi doon tayo makaka-apak ng Olympics,” Barbosa said.

      His parents proved to be right all along.

      In 2018, he was adjudged the Rookie-MVP in the UAAP taekwondo event and a year later, won a gold medal in the Manila Southeast Asian Games.

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        During the recent Asian Qualification Tournament in Amman, Jordan, Barbosa saved the day for the Philippine taekwondo team when he rallied in the final 12 seconds to beat local bet Zaid Alhalawani and punched a ticket to the Tokyo Games.

        “I still can’t believe talaga na nakapasok na ako sa Olympics,” said the ninth Filipino athlete to earn a ticket to Tokyo. “Sobrang happy ko dahil yung pinaghirapan mo, nagbunga naman.”

        Why not?
        ___

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        PHOTO: @kurtesyyy on Instagram | AP
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