Lopez earns country's only gold Asian Taekwondo Championships

ABS-CBN Sports on Apr 21, 2016 12:34 PM
Lopez earns country's only gold Asian Taekwondo Championship
Lopez became the first Filipino to win a gold medal in the Asian Taekwondo Championships since Roberto “Kitoy” Cruz in 1999 (File photo).

Saving the best for last, Pauline Louise Lopez showed spunk and staying power to topple defending South Korean champion Lee Ah-Reum, 8-6, Wednesday in the women’s -57-kilogram finals for the first country one and only gold medal at the close of the 22nd Asian Taekwondo Championships at the Manila Mariott Hotel grand ballroom in Pasay City.    

Buoyed by her two thrilling wins in the quarterfinals and semifinals earlier, Lopez showed no fear of the the fancied Lee, also an Incheon Asian Games champion, staking herself to a 7-3 lead  with an axe kick to the head  of the South Korean near the end of the second round.

She kept her poise in the third and last round, padding her lead to 8-4  while holding off her opponent, ending a 17-year-old gold-medal drought after Roberto “Kitoy” Cruz, now the national coach, last won in the 1999 edition coincidentally held in Manila.

“This is all surreal, but I always trusted in God’s plan for me so this (victory) is so sweet,” added the comely Pinay jin, who was embraced by his maternal grandfather Adriano dela Cruz, after the match.

“My father  (former national athlete) Efren called me up from the US after I lost in the quarterfinals to encourage me, and forget about what happened earlier,” added Lopez, who failed in the Asian Olympic qualifiers last Sunday.

The 2015 Singapore Southeast Asian Games gold medalist previously fashioned a nerve-wracking 7-5 semifinal  triumph over Iran’s Jeddi Mahsla, a world championship bronze medalist, setting up a title showdown with Lee, who vanquished Chna’s Fen Fen Shao, 4-0, in the other semis.

Trailing, 4-5, and with the clock winding down, Lopez soared,  striking with a jumping, turning 45-degree kick that smashed into Mahsa’s body - worth three points -  to snatch the  match from the jaws of defeat.   

It was the second straight dramatic victory in the day for the 19-year-old Fil-Am, who also won a tense 6-3 decision over Thailand’s Sae-Lao Thanapa in the quarterfinals.  

Behind 0-1 after two rounds, Lopez, a 2015 Singapore Southeast Asian Games gold medalist, opened the last round with a cut roundhouse kick to the stunned Thai’s face – good for three points -    to turn the tide, 4-1.

The 2013 Nanjing Asian Youth Games veteran scored two more points with kicks to the body of the Thai, whose desperate efforts with under a minute remaining went for naught.

The Philippines had earlier secured a silver from Kristopher Robert Uy and  a bronze courtesy of Olympic qualifier Kirstie Elaine Alora.

But Wenesday’s other quarterfinalist, rookie Eddtone Lumasac, couldn’t hold on to his lead and eventually faded to Kazakhstan’s Yerzyhan Abylkas, who used a last-gasp turning side kick to the head in scoring a come-from-behind 9-8 victory in the men’s -74-kg. division.

Ahead 8-6 with  barely 20 seconds to go, Lumasac relaxed, allowing  the Kazakh to score three points with his final kick and advance to semis of the tournament sponsored by Smart, PLDT, Meralco, MVP Sports Foundation, Resorts World Manila and the Philippine Sports Commission.

Earlier, Lopez reasserted her mastery over Malaysia Nurul Farah Alisa Roslan, 4-1, in the round-of-16 match while Lumasac crushed Syria’s Mohammad Ghanem, 16-3, in the same round.

Bowing out early were Keith Sembrano and Kaye Shannele Romuar in the men’s -68-kg. and women’s -62-kg. opening bouts, respectively.

Sembrano lost lopsidedly, 4-22,  to Iran’s Alireza Alyari, after which the host camp noted that the Iranian’s body was  wet that could have short-circuited or grounded the sensitive electronic  system so that the Filipinos’ blows failed to register.  

“This is why we had a coaches meeting when this was observed because this is one way some players are able to cheat (the scoring system),” explained head coach Kitoy Cruz, who attended the meeting.

Romuar dropped a close2-3  decision to Vietnam’s Thi Hang Pam in her first match. 

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