MANILA, Philippines – Following the rule change made by host Malaysia, taekwondo national team training director Igor Mella admitted that it would be a "tough challenge" for them to best their previous Southeast Asian (SEA) Games record of 8 medals (3 golds, 3 silvers, and 2 bronzes) in 2015.
The modification of rules in taekwondo only permits visiting countries to send 3 men and 3 women for both kyorugi (sparring) and poomsae (non-sparring) events, for a total of 12 participants. The host country, however, is excluded from the restrictions. This allows Malaysia to join all 16 taekwondo events.
Mella believes that it isn't right for host countries to use the rules to their advantage because the "proper objective" of the games is to "promote the sport better" and "encourage more participation."
"This is not a good precedent," said Mella. "So that would mean future hosts can pattern their ground rules based on this SEA Games."
Mella recognized that the rule change would make it difficult for them to equal or surpass their previous medal tally. "Basta ang focus lang ng team sana hindi kami bumaba sa target namin to equal the number of gold [medals] as before," he said.
(The focus of the team is to hopefully reach the target which is to equal the number of gold [medals] as be before.)
Staying on top
"It's harder to stay on top rather than work your way to the top."
Those are the words of promising taekwondo jin Pauline Louise Lopez who is gearing up for a back-to-back gold medal win in the upcoming SEA Games, this August, in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Lopez won her first SEA games gold during her debut in 2015.
"Last SEA Games I was able to win that title – a gold medal, and this year I'm hoping to keep that title," Lopez said. "It's definitely much harder and much more challenging," added the 21-year old.
Lopez showed her readiness to compete in the 29th SEA Games by bagging a gold medal in the 2017 Chuncheon Korea Open International Taekwondo championship last July 5, in Chuncheon, South Korea.
Lopez also competed in the 31st National Championships of taekwondo last Sunday, where she represented the Ateneo de Manila University. She sustained an ankle injury in the tourney but that did not stop her from continuously training.
"It's also not just physical training for me right now; it's mental training," Lopez said, "Because you know in the ring – in the real match – if I’m injured I have to fight through it. So that's what I'm trying to simulate here."
Joining Lopez in Team Kyorugi are 2016 Olympians Kirstie Elaine Alora and Morrison Samuel Thomas Harper, along with Rhezie Canama Aragon, Aaron Agojo, and Arven Alcantara.
Meanwhile Team Poomsae will be composed of Dustin Jacob Mella, Raphael Enrico Mella, Rodolfo Reyes Jr, Juvenille Faye Crisostomo, Jocellyn Ninobla, and Rinna Babanto. – Rappler.com