By Kristel Satumbaga
Kurt Barbosa saved the best for last for the Philippine taekwondo team after clinching the gold medal in the men’s -54kg (fin) category on Monday in the 30th Southeast Asian Games at the Ninoy Aquino Stadium.
The 20-year-old Barbosa first dominated Vietnam’s Hoang Duc Anh in the semifinals, 58-6, before returning a few hours later to demolish Indonesia’s Reinaldy Atmanegara, 26-10.
It was the lone victory for the Nationals on the final day of the taekwondo competition, sealing their campaign with eight gold, nine silver and four bronze medals.
Four golds came from poomsae and the remaining three came from Sunday’s kyorugi courtesy of Pauline Lopez, Sam Morrison and Kristopher Robert Uy.
Barbosa, a Rookie-MVP in last season’s UAAP representing National University, said his SEAG win is his stepping-stone to achieve his dream of making into the Olympics in the future.
“Gustung-gusto ko po talagang mag-Olympics. Actually yan po ang goal naming lahat sa Philippine taekwondo,” he said.
Rheza Aragon fell short of adding another gold to the PH chest after yielding to Thailand’s Panipak Wongphattanakit, 35-2, in the women’s -49kg (fly) finals.
Other local bets settled for bronzes after losing in the semifinals. They were Veronica Garces (women’s -46kg fin), Dex Chavez (men’s -58kg fly), Kurt Pajuelas (men’s -63kg bantam) and Jessica Canabal (women’s -53kg bantam).
The PH team’s performance eclipsed its two-gold, three-silver, four-bronze medal haul at the 2017 Kuala Lumpur edition.