AUGUST 20, 2008
(STAR) By Gerry Carpio – With a big fighting heart and breaks of the game, national coaches Kim Hong Sik and Rocky Samson are confident RP jins’ fists and legs of fury can carry them to the medal round of the Beijing Olympics’ taekwondo competitions.

The two coaches expressed satisfaction over the medal chances of Philippine taekwondo jins Tshomlee Go and Toni Rivero after both fighters were paired against relatively easy first round opponents in yesterday’s draw.

The draw was held at the Beijing University of Science and Technology, venue of the taekwondo events, where the preliminaries and medal rounds will be held in succession on the same day.

Go faces Australian champion Ryan Carneli in the first round of the flyweight (-67 kg) class starting at 10 a.m. tomorrow.

A win will send him to the quarterfinals two hours later. Three more wins – in the quarterfinal, semifinal and final – will give him the gold by nightfall.

Rivero had the luck of drawing Croatian Sandra Saric in the first round on Friday. A win sends her to the quarterfinals, possibly against dreaded Korean crasher and two-time world champion Hwang Kyung-seon.

“We have to be careful because these (16) players (in both men and women’s division) have prepared for this event,” said Samson, who will be in the corner of Rivero. “If you win in the first round you have a 50 percent chance of winning a medal.”

“If their performance is up to the level, we have a good fight. If they win in the first round, they will be more composed to fight in the next rounds all the way to final,” he said.

Kim, who will work Go’s corner, said he was happy with the draw.

“The draw of Tshomlee very good. The draw for Toni not bad,” Hong said, struggling with his English. “Chance for a medal, yes – (it) can be gold.”

Hong said the draw for Go is better because the strongest players are in the opposite bracket, although he said most of the 16 players in his division are of world caliber.

“On fight day, some will be strong, depends on the mindset, but his Korean training very good now. He can win gold,” he said.

However, despite what they said was an easy first round match, the two national coaches said Go and Rivero must not be overconfident as the first round will be crucial. A loss could end their stint in the daylong competitions.

Under the new format, a player who sweeps all four matches wins the gold, and the loser in the final gets the silver. The losers along the way have the chance to vie in the repechage (losers’ bracket) – but only for the two bronze medals.

Qualified for the repechage are only those players defeated by the eventual finalists. The two semifinal losers fight the two winners from the first round for the two bronze medals.

Both coaches said the first round opponents of the Filipinos are not likely to end up as finalists. Fancied to gain the finals in the men’s division are Levent Tuncat of Germany in the upper bracket where Go belongs, and Taiwanese world champion Chu Mu-yen from the lower bracket.

On the women’s side, the gold medal round will be a tossup between Hwang and two-time world silver medallist Gwladys Patience Epangue of France in the lower segment where Rivero is bracketed.

The top finalist from the upper bracket could be 2004 Athens silver medallist Elisavet Mystakidou of Greece or Helena Fromm of Germany.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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