June 20, 2024

A Cordilleran is going to see action in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Abra pride Kurt Barbosa rallied from behind to clinch the ninth Olympic berth for the Philippines following his empha-tic victory in the 2021 Asian Taekwondo Olympics Qualification Tournament on weekend in Amman, Jordan.

Against all odds, Barbosa stunned hometown bet Zaid Al-Halawani, 50-49, in the dying seconds of their semifinals bout in the men’s 58-kilogram.

From a double-digit deficit, the Bangued, Abra native closed the gap, 49-44, with only 12 seconds remaining in the fight.

He then scored the last six points in the dying seconds for an Olympics slot.

“Kurt Barbosa gave the Filipino people a timely reminder that as long as there’s still time left on the clock, we need to keep fighting,” said MVP Sports Foundation president Al Panlilio in a statement.

“Even if Kurt was down big in the third round, his belief in himself never wavered and now he is an Olympian,” Panlilio added.

The 21-year-old Barbosa, a gold medalist in the 2019 Southeast Asian Games, is the lone Cordilleran member of the Philippine Taekwondo squad to join the Summer Olympics after 2016 Olympian Kirstie Almora, Pauline Lopez, and Arven Alcantara failed in the qualifying rounds.

Barbosa will join gymnast Caloy Yulo, weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz, pole vaulter EJ Obiena, rower Cris Nievarez, and boxers Eumir Marcial, Nesthy Petecio, Irish Magno, and Carlo Paalam as the country’s elite athletes to the Olympics.

Magno, Petecio, and Paalam are all University of Baguio students.

An elite varsity player of National University (NU), Barbosa has been competing in national and international taekwondo kyorugi tournaments, winning medals for the region and the country and making him one of elite members of the Philippine team.

In 2018, Barbosa was conferred the Most Valuable Player and Rookie of the Year in the University Athletic Association of the Philippines Season 81 for delivering back-to-back titles for NU that year.    – Harley F. Palangchao