SEA Games: Bejar's tough road to karate finals ends in silver

Camille B. Naredo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 23 2017 07:02 PM | Updated as of Aug 23 2017 07:34 PM

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia -- Filipino karateka John Paul Bejar had quite the eventful campaign in the below-55 kg division of the men's kumite in the 2017 Southeast Asian Games on Wednesday at the Kuala Lumpur Convention Center.

The 22-year-old student of Far Eastern University was judged the loser of his semifinal match against Malaysia's Prem Kumar Al Selvam, but he knew that it should not be the case.

"Alam ko kung ano 'yung mga rules. Kaya nung naglalaro kami, nag-iisip ako bakit hindi siya binigyan ng ganoong foul, walang penalty na ganoon. Eh alam ko na 'yun 'yung nangyari," Bejar told Philippine media after his event.

Apparently, the Malaysian competitor had committed four fouls in their match, which was grounds for disqualification.

Three fouls -- two for not clashing within a 20-second time period, and one for grabbing -- were called, but another, for stepping outside, was not.

"Na-outside siya, and 'yun ang pinaka mas malaking penalty. 'Yun ang nagpatalo sa kanya," said Bejar, who was shocked that the foul was not called on his opponent.

Philippine karate official believed they had grounds for a protest, and did so accordingly. It was a long process, according to Philippine Karate Federation (PKF) secretary-general Raymund Reyes, one that involved paying a $300 protest fee.

"Nagagalit nga 'yung ibang mga coach sa amin," said Reyes. "But we told them that we're just doing our job."

The PKF's protest was granted, but only after officials viewed Reyes' own Facebook Live video some four times. The Malaysian's victory was cancelled, much to the disgust of the partisan crowd in Hall 1.

Bejar, for his part, was unruffled by the uncommon road he took to the final. According to Reyes, this is the first time as far as he can remember that a result has been reversed. 

Against Iwan Bidu Sirait in the final, Bejar took an early 2-0 advantage. But he faded down the stretch, and the Indonesian landed a clean kick to head that all but doomed the Filipino karateka.

"Medyo kaunting disappointed ako kasi ang target po talaga namin is gold this day, pero ayun po, hindi ko po nakuha," Bejar admitted.

"Parang na-excite ako masyado eh kasi siyempre parang ayun na, gusto ko kainin ang kalaban ko, parang alam ko na kaya ko siya, gusto ko i-dominate yung kalaban ko nung time na yun," he further explained.

"Kaya parang medyo nung bandang time na mga one minute, parang nagpabaya siguro ako. Medyo nanggigil ako," he added.

Bejar ended up losing, 10-4, to settle for silver. It is already the Philippines' third karate silver of the 29th SEA Games, but the gold has so far eluded the team.

The Philippine karate team added a bronze as well, courtesy of Mae Soriano in the women's under-55 kg kumite.

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