KUALA LUMPUR — The Filipino taekwondo jins are consistent medal winners in the Southeast Asian Games.
Six of the 12 athletes competing here are medalists in Singapore two years ago. They are Dustin Jacob Mella, Rafael Enrico Mella and Rudolfo Reyes, Jr. (men’s poomsae, gold), Samuel Thomas Harper Morrison (men’s under 68kg, gold), Pauline Louise Lopez (women’s under 57kg, gold) and Rinna Babanto (women’s individual poomsae, silver).
The other members of the team are 2016 Rio Olympian Kirstie Elaine Alora (women’s under 73kg), Arven Alcantara (men’s under 68kg), Rhezie Canama Aragon (women’s under 53kg) and the women’s poomsae team of Jocel Lyn Ninobla and Juvenile Faye Crisostomo.
Elora, 27, had the honor of carrying the Philippine flag during the opening ceremony last August 19. She won the silver medal in the 67kg category in the Asian Taekwondo Qualifying Tournament to earn a slot at the 2016 Rio Summer Games. She also got the bronze in at the 2010 (Guangzhou) and 2014 (Incheon) Asian Games.
Head coach Dindo Simpao said his players are physically and mentally prepared. “All my athletes are capable of winning medals,” said Simpao in an interview on Friday.
The 42-year-old Simpao is a silver medalist in the Asian Taekwondo Championships in Amman, Jordan and a bronze winner in the Asian Games in Busan, South Korea in 2002. He retired after competing in the 2003 Vietnam SEA Games and has been with the national coaching staff since 2009.
Assisting Simpao are coaches John Paul Lizardo and Rani Ann Ortega.
Lizardo won two golds in the SEA Games, winning the finweight division in 2005 (Manila) and the flyweight division in 2011 (Palembang, Indonesia). He was also a bronze winner in the 2010 Asian Games in Guangzhou, China.
A total of 16 gold medals are at stake in the taekwondo competition which will be held from August 26 to 29 at the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre.
In the 2001 Malaysia SEA Games, the Philippines captured three gold medals, five silvers and five bronzes. The gold winners were Roberto Cruz, Veronica Domingo and Nelia Ycasas.
The Philippines won eight golds courtesy of Roberto Cruz, Dean Vargas, Ramil Abratique, Ulysses Marcelino, Manel Sy, Bea Lucero, Sharon Sowy and Diana de Leon in the 1991 Manila SEA Games. PNA-northboundasia.com