MANILA, Philippines - Three gritty SMART/Philippines jins made the country proud again by winning three bronze medals in the recent World Junior Taekwondo Championships at Sharm El Sheikh in Egypt.
The three – Keno Anthony Mendoza (-59kg), Aaron James Galita (-45kg) and Mathew Padilla (-48kg) – produced the first SMART/PH medals in the prestigious world event in four years. The last Filipino medalist in the competition was Jyra Marie Lizardo, who earned a rare spot in the podium in 2008 in Turkey.
“Our fighters displayed brilliant skills and courage against competitors from 89 other countries. They deserved to win,” said team delegation and Philippine Taekwondo Association vice president Sung Chon Hong. “In fact, all our athletes did their best, but the opposition was strong, especially the Koreans, who won the overall crown.”
Galita provided one of the tournament’s biggest shockers by beating world number one Hyeok Yu by superiority in the quarterfinals after a sudden death fourth round to break a 0-0 tie.
Galita also toppled Cyprus’ Pantelis Dirnou, 8-2, and Thailand’s Ramnarong Sawekwiharee, 3-0, in the sudden death fourth round. But he lost 2-8 in the semifinals to Iran’s Seyed Tabari, who then fell to Russian Borris Krasnov in the battle for gold.
Fighting on the last day, Padilla started by crushing his Korean rival, 21-11, in the eliminations. He also hurdled Russian Sergey Zemtsov, 11-7, and Brazil’s Adriano Junior, 9-4, before edging German Yorulmaz Mehmet-Akif, 8-7, to clinch a bronze medal. Iranian Abolfazl Jouybari stopped Padilla’s run and eventually bagged the gold.
Mendoza triumphed over Morocco’s Hasan Bourguigue, 15-3, German Ali Adnan Karin who was disqualified, and Portugal’s Tiago Unas, 9-3, in the eliminations. He then whipped Egypt’s Mohamed Saleh, 9-5, in the quarters to advance to the medal round, where he fell to Korean Hyeok Jae Goh, 2-8.
The other Filipino athletes were Francis Aaron Agojo, Benjamin Keith Sembrano, Jose Manuel Alejandro, Ina Izabella Dionisio, Colleen Heria, Korina Paladin, Pauline Louise Lopez, Suzzane Glehn Caslangen, Bianca Maurice Go, Melanie Hope Douglas and Patricia Francesca Gonzalez.
Head coach Victor Emmanuel Veneracion and coaches Roberto Cruz and Alvin Taraya did a good job as did international referee Roland Campos.