ATHENS (VIA  GLOBE  TELECOM),  August 25, 2004  (STAR) By Lito A. Tacujan - With its ranks dwindling to a precious few, the Philippines hopes to make a good draw in taekwondo and rekindles its hopes going into the final week of the Athens Games.

"We will fight as if there’s no tomorrow," said national coach Jobet Morales on the eve of the draw set Thursday at the Faliro Sports Pavilion here.

The three Filipino jins —Donald Geisler III, Tshomlee Go and Maria Antoinette Rivero — plunge into action beginning Thursday with the 23-year-old Go first on the elevated stage in the opening matches of the minus 58-kilogram.

Aware of the talent-laden rosters in the three weight divisions they are in, the jins hope to gain some breaks in the draw to be able to prime up for the tougher matches as the tournament progresses on.

"We hope to be lucky in the draw because I’m confident that this time we have good chances of winning a gold," said grandmaster Hong Sung Chon, the acknowledged father of RP taekwondo.

The Korean official said he had been impressed with the form of the Filipino jins and hoped that the draw to be set at 3 p.m. will favor the national athletes. The weigh-in is set at 5 p.m.

They have resumed light training at the athletes village to stay in form and chatted away the long hours, the excruciating wait and the pressures beginning to build up.

Team Philippines is pinning its hopes on the three jins who have survived world and Asian qualifiers following the demise of its campaign in various fronts, particularly in boxing.

"They’re in high spirits. Mahaba-haba na rin ang aming pinaghintay para sa laban (We’ve waited long enough for the matches)," said Morales.

Geisler, a repeat Olympian, and first timers Go and Rivero have maintained their two-session daily workout with pad exercises and speed and power training but this time with accent on the kind of style their fancied rivals may dish out.

Korean mentor Tae Hyun Kim, in fact, has studied the moves of the favorite jins in the fold and worked out battle plans for the three Filipinos.

"We simulated their moves and their fighting styles so we would know what to expect during the bouts," said Morales who will join Hong and Kim in the draw.

Hong, now chairman of the arbitration committee, feels that Geisler has good chance to advance after his impressive showing in the Asian Championship. "If he avoids fighting the Iranian (Yoseff Karami) in the early rounds, then we’ll have a chance)," he said.

The 25-year-old Geisler, seeing action in the minus 80 kilogram, has been bracketed with Karami, a world titlist, American Steven Lopez, two-time world champion and gold medalist in Sydney; Turkey’s Bahri Tanirkulu and Cuba’s Angel Matos, the Sydney Games flyweight champion who has moved to higher division.

Go, the first Filipino qualifier in the Paris bash, has former world champion Juan Ramos of Spain, two-time titlist Chi Su Ju and local hero Michalis Mouroutsos.

Rivero, the 5-foot-8 teener from Angelicum School, is also raring to compete against rated opponents like Jean Hwang Kyung-sun, world champion Lou Wei of China, Saric Sandra of Croatia and host Greece’s Elisavet Mystakidou.

"They’re all equal in talent and ability so breaks will play a big part in the matches," said Hong.

Being the chairman of the arbitration committee will enable Hong to screen the officials working the matches and avert similar incident that befell Geisler in the Sydney Games where he lost on superiority after fighting his Swede rival to a draw.

"We don’t want that to happen because we have good chances now and even international taekwondo officials are saying we could make it this time," said Hong.

The Greeks squad, meanwhile, are very much fancied to triumph with Korean coach Oh Joung Woo saying his team is capable of winning four gold medals.

"It is blessing that Greece is the host country. Therefore the Faliro Pavilion will be packed and the passion from the people will help us against some of the best athletes. Our aim is to win four gold medals because I know our strengths," said Woo.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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