ATHENS (Via Globe Telecom) — With one comrade fallen, the remaining Filipino taekwondo jins go to war today for last-ditch, moment-of-truth thrust at Olympic honor.
Two-time Olympic veteran Donald Geisler III and newcomer Maria Antoinette Rivero square off with a former Turk world titlist and a seasoned Argentine, respectively, at the Faliro Sports Pavilion.
"They’re consumed and focused," said Robert Aventajado, president of the Philippine Taekwondo Association (PTA).
The 25-year-old Geisler, a World Cup silver medalist and SEA Games gold medal winner, battles Bahri Tanrikulu, the world middleweight champ in 2001, in one of the preliminary matches in the under 80-kg class at 11:42 a.m.(4:12 p.m. in Manila).
Earlier at 10:12 (3:12 p.m. in Manila), Rivero, an Asian qualifier, will climb the plush elevated blue mat to clash with Argentina’s Vanina Beron Sanchez, who won a silver in the World in Manila in 1995 when the Pinay teener was only seven.
The Philippines’ opening bid for an Olympic medal in the Korean martial discipline Thursday ended grievously in the last 10 seconds when minus 58-kg bet Tshomlee Go absorbed a horrifying 6-7 defeat to former Spanish world titleholder Juan Ramos.
The RP team took issues but didn’t protest the outcome of the contest. Instead it is concentrating all its efforts to motivate Geisler and Rivero, one of the youngest in the entire tournament, launching the nation’s final crack at an Olympic medal in the Athens Games barely 72 hours from its end.
"Let’s pray for them," said Aventajado, who gifted the two jins with a rosary each on the eve of the contests.
Although a clear underdog, Geisler could pull off a big reversal over the 24-year-old Tanrikulu and a passage to the quarterfinals against the winner of two lesser credentialed opponents in Tunisia’s Hichem Hamdouni and Nigeria’s Jacob Martins Obiorah.
"Malampasan ko lang si Bahri, medyo magaan na (If I beat Bahri, it will be easier from there)," said Geisler during the weigh-in Wednesday.
The Argentine is a mystery to the sophomore student at the Angelicum School since she hasn’t seen her in action and in the event Rivero overcomes Sanchez, she will earn probably an easy stint in the quarterfinals against whoever wins in the contest between Great Britain’s Sarah Baimbridge and the Netherlands’ Charmie Sobers.
"If Donny gets past his first round opponent, the rest of his matches will be easy and I think he can do it. Toni’s draw looks not so tough since she would meet the Korean (Hwang Kyun Sun) in the finals," said Aventajado.
The two Filipino jins together with marathon runner Eduardo Buenavista are the only ones standing in a compact 16-member RP contingent with the bids of the rest being history in the historic return of the Games here.
"We’re aware of the pressures of winning a medal but that’s easier said than done. I told them not to think about it and focus on what the enemies are doing," he said.
The former government official in the Erap years also took a swipe at officiating and judging, alluding to the close defeat Go suffered against Ramos.
The 23-year-old Go was the aggressor in the contest, repeatedly scoring points that didn’t reflect on the monitor but drawing warnings from the Panamanian referee.
Tshomlee scored three points in the first, two in the second and two more in the third while Ramos had two points in the first, two in the next round and three more in the third including a counter axe kick that clinched the win in the last 3 seconds, 8-7. They both drew a point from three kyongos (warning penalty).
The first day of hostilities in taekwondo was without its share of judging controversies that have been the bane of these Games–from gymnastics, boxing and fencing–as several protests were lodged to no avail.
"I have no second thoughts we can deliver. The only thing we worry about are the things beyond our control," said Aventajado.
Go’s tormentor later lost his bid for the bronze in the repechage against Egypt’s Tamer Bayoumi.
Chinese Taipei swept the golds in the first day with world No. 1 Mu Yen Chu claiming the honor in the men’s minus 58 kg., beating Mexico’s Oscar Francisco Salazar Blanco, 5-1.
The other Taiwanese ace was Chen Shih Hsin, winner of the gold in the women’s under 48 kg. with a 5-4 points victory over Cuba’s Yanelis Yuliet Labrada Diaz.
The bronze went to Thai Yaowapa Boorapolchai, who defeated Colombia’s Glady’s Alicia Mora Romero, 2-1.