Guadalajara, Mexico – Southeast Asian Games multi-medalist Laila Delo takes on Germany’s Vaness Koerndl as the eight-man SMART/MVP Sports Foundation Philippine Team starts its campaign in the World Taekwondo Championships, which officially opened on Monday (Tuesday in Manila) at the ultra-modern Centro Acuatico CODE Metropolitano here.
The 21-year-old Delo from University of Santo Tomas crosses paths with Koerndl in the women’ -67 kgs class scheduled on Tuesday (Wednesday night in Manila).
Team manager and technical head Rocky Samson said the Filipino jins are facing talls odd considering the presence of the world’s elite and established fighters, all eyeing crucial points to strengthen their bid for the 2024 Paris Olympics.
“Ready naman tayo, pero ready rin ang mga kalaban natin. May advantage pa sila dahil tayo huminto sa pagsali abroad dahil sa pandemic habang sila nakapagpatuloy pa rin. Walang patapon na fighters dito, but I like our chances and I firmly believe na makaiwas lang sa injury at masaktan ng todo makaka-survive ang atleta natin going to the medal round,” said Samson, the current secretary general of the Philippine Taekwondo Association.
Providing the plans and strategies are coaches Paul Romero and World Championship veteran Carlos ‘Caloy’ Padilla. The head of the delegation is former senator Anna Dominique “Nikki” Coseteng with former Zambales congresswoman Cheryl Dolosa Montalla as her deputy.
The nationals’ participation here is supported by the Philippine Sports Commission and the Philippine Olympic Committee.
The games which have drawn 755 fighters from 122 countries were formally opened Sunday night via a grandiose ceremonies and parade of the athletes. Highlighting the event were the performances of the renowned Korean Taekwondo Demo Team and Mexico’s national synchronized swimming team.
Tokyo Olympian Kurt Bryan Barbosa was the flag-bearer for Team Philippines.
The pride of Bangued, Abra is eyeing to erase his unforgettable stint in the 2019 edition in Manchester. His first-round match against Sanoh Lancery of Republic of Guinea in the men’s -54kgs. is the last event on the 16 weight categories (eight for men and eight for women) happening on Saturday (Sunday in Manila).
“‘Yung chances na naibigay sa akin talagang malaking pasalamat ko. For almost one month, nag-training ako sa Korea and with the experiences I gained in the past tournaments, including Olympics in Tokyo, mas kumpiyansa ako ngayon,” said Barbosa.
“Saka promse ko po sa pamilya ko at kababayan sa Abra na babawi ako dito. At least mabigyan ko sila ng kasiyahan after so much pain dahil sa lindol na sumira sa aming bayan lately,” added Barbosa, the first Filipino taekwondo jin to make it to pandemic-delayed Olympics in Japan last year since Tshomlee Go in the 2008 edition.
Another SEAG multi-medalist Baby Jessica Canabal will be joining fellow National University alumnus Barbosa on Friday’s schedule when she opens her bid in the women’s -53kgs. against Bulgarian Selen Gunduz.
World Championship newbie Alfritz Arevalo faces Alin Ali of Sweden in the men’s -68kgs first match on Wednesday (Thursday in Manila), followed by SEA Games veteran Dave Cea, who fights Japanese Yasahuro Hamada in the men’s -74kgs on Thursday, while Joseph Chua meets Niko Saarinen of Finland in the men’s -63kg on Friday (Mexican time).