|Pauline Lopez moments before entering for her match against Malaysia's Alisa Roslan.|
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Pauline Lopez crashes out of Olympic taekwondo contention
by rick olivares
The packed Marriott Grand Ballroom egged on taekwondo jin Pauline Lopez on but the captivating 19-year old from Los Angeles, California, fell to Thai champion Phannapa Harnsujin.
Lopez, the last Filipino standing in the Asian Taekwondo Olympic Qualifiers after Butch Morrison and Kristoffer Uy crashed out, was unable to join fellow female jin Elaine Alora for the trip to Rio, Brazil this August.
The diminutive and exciting Lopez, earlier defeated Malaysia’s Nurul Farah Alisa Roslan in the female 57 kilogram class, 4-2, to enter the semifinals against Harnsujin, a multiple gold medal winner. The Thai also most recently brought home a silver and a bronze medal in the two tournaments she took part in this calendar year — a silver in the US Open Taekwondo Championships in Reno, Nevada; and a bronze in the Fujairah Open in Malaysia.
The Filipina was mostly the aggressor throughout the match but it was the Thai who scored first on a head kick in the first round, 3-0. Lopez tried to cut the deficit in the second but was unable to tack on a single point.
Harnsujin scored on a punch in the third and final round to give herself a little more cushion and placing more pressure on Lopez to catch up. The Filipina scored on a pair of punches to cut the lead in half. However the Thai lass was able to add another point with a kick to the body to make it, 5-2. With time furiously running out and in dire need of a head kick to send the fight to a fourth round and a golden point, the Thai danced away and fended off the last ditch attacks until the final whistle.
“Pauline was good but we saw her opponent was very good defensively,” analyzed former national player Jobet Morales of the match. “As soon as she saw Pauline get ready for a kick, she was ready to block and try to score on a counter attack. The head kick in the first round that scored was big for the Thai and being unable to score in the second round hurt. That forces you to change your gameplan a bit because you have to score points in a hurry. Not our day but we will be back.”
A visibly disappointed Lopez vowed to be back, “She (referring to Harnsujin) is good and that is why she is a multiple winner. I’ll learn from this and do better next time.”
Former national team head coach Rocky Samson who was competitions manager for the tournament, lamented the “unluckiness” of most of the Filipino athletes who competed in this Olympic Qualifiers.
“The Filipino athlete shows that he or she can compete. The final score will say that we lost but there is so much more that needs to be communicated,” noted Samson. “Take for example Kristoffer Uy, he lost on a golden point. Butch Morrison was leading all throughout and put on a beating on Liu Wei-Ting (the Taiwanese fighter) who is a current world champion and one of the best in the game now. Butch was unluckily hit; he was able to evade the kick but it grazed him for big points that saw the result slip away from him. And now, Pauline.”
“Definitely, we are getting better. But we must continuously build from these gains. With the support we are getting from our sponsors like Smart, it is good. But we are just as disappointed as our fighters that we will be unable to send anymore athletes outside Elaine Alora to Rio."