MARY Antoinette Rivero was sweet 16 when she first made it to the Olympics in 2004, when the games went back to its original birthplace—in Athens. It was an impressive ride all the way to the semi-finals until she found her dreams shattered by a controversial loss to hometown bet Elizabeth Mystakido.
Was she robbed off a chance for the medal? Maybe, but Rivero believes she could have done better.
“This sport has become a part of my family’s life,” said Rivero, whose older brother Mark was also an RP jin and her mom and dad are also into martial arts.
She was only four years old when she became a jin and her rode to success has been impressive, becoming a multiple gold medal winner in the Southeast Asian Games and silver medalist in the Asian Games. She did try to become the best and wanted to exceed her expectations. That’s why she’s determined to bounce back from her previous performance in the quadrennial meet.
“One of the best attitudes instilled in us by our coaches is we should always put up a good fight. When I go up there I will be giving it my best shot.”
In last year’s World Qualifying in Manchester, England, she lost the opportunity of securing a bronze medal against a Croatian foe and missed the chance of securing an outright berth to Beijing. But it made the Ateneo freshman student a better competitor next time around as she overpowered Soheila Sayahi, 6-2, in the semi-finals for the silver medal in the Asian Olympic qualifier, thus securing her second straight Olympic slot.
Now more matured and primed up for the big challenges, the pretty big-eyed Rivero is setting her sights for an Olympic gold medal in the coming Beijing Games. Her confidence are oozing and likes her chances more than before.
“Mas nag-mature na ako ngayon, so I’d say mas maganda ang chance ko ngayon,” she said. ”I want to surpass what I reached in Athens and to do this, it’s important to be positive, determined, focused and patient.”
Like Rivero, Tshomlee Go is going to the Olympic Games twice in a row.
The 27-year-old University of Santo Tomas education degree holder is entered in the 57-kilogram category. He qualified for the Beijing Games through his superb performance in the World Qualifier last year.
And just like Rivero, Go also came from a family of taekwondo jins. His father and two brothers used to be members of the RP taekwondo team and at the age of seven, his interest in the sport began.
But it was in the 1999 SEA Games wherein his brother was competing made Go more determined to participate competitively.
“Importante talaga na mahal mo ’yung sport, pati rin ’yung commitment ng athlete, malaking bagay ’yan,” he said.
Go’s biggest rival in his weight bracket is Chinese Taipei’s Mu Yen Chu, who topped the Olympic qualifying held in Manchester last year, and Levent Tumcat of Germany. Tumcat defeated Go in the fight for the silver medal in the same tournament.
Rivero, meanwhile, has a slightly better chance of snaring a medal since she had already beaten five of the 15 jins in her class. She has beaten fellow Olympic bets Sandra Saric of Croatia, Norkina Lian of Kazakhstan, Verona Sanchez of Argentina, Yuriko Okamoto of Japan and Asuncion Ocasio of Puerto Rico. Her acid test will come against Kyung Seong of Korea, who ousted the Filipina in Manchester.
Philippine Taekwondo Association president Robert Aventajado said both Go and Rivero had an idea on the capability of their potential opponents while they were training in Korea.
A year-long preparation, capped by a three-month training in Korea, made Rivero and Go ready and confident in their second shot at a possible Olympic gold following their respective failed bids in Athens four years ago.
“They train at least six hours a day, but they don’t mind the hard work because they’re determined to achieve their respective goals in Beijing,” said Aventajado.
The jins underwent exclusive training for three months at the Korean Marines where they worked on their physical and mental condition in time for the world’s biggest sports spectacle. The two also went training in several noted taekwondo schools and gyms like the Korea National College of Physical Education, Poomsaeng School, Yong In, Kyung Hee University and Military Varsity team.
“The Korean training serves as the final tuneup for Tshomlee and Toni. We’re banking on them to perform well, and hopefully, end the Philippines’ 84-year quest for an Olympic gold medal,” said Sung Chon Hong, PTA vice president.
Blog Credits: Rey Joble, Manila Standard Today