AMID the roaring cheers from the big home crowd, taekwondo jin Pauline Louise Lopez of the Philippines ran to the mat with the country’s flag wrapped around her and basked in the glory of her big win.
Living up to her lofty billing, Lopez proved that she was more than just a pretty face and outclassed Aliza Chhoeung of Cambodia 12-4 in the final of the women’s under-57 kilograms category in the 30th Southeast Asian Games at the Ninoy Aquino Stadium.
Adding to the Philippine’s gold medal haul was Dave Cea, who also bagged the gold via a 10-5 win over Nutthawee Klompong of Thailand in the under-74kg category and Samuel Morrison, who dominated Joshua Abdullah 30-8 in the under-80kg category.
But the night surely belonged to Lopez, a former Ateneo star, who won the mint in the 2015 SEAG in Singapore but settled for the silver in the last edition of the Games in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia in 2017 after she moved up to the under-62kg class.
With her parents watching from the stands, Lopez, 23, connected on the chest of her taller foe early in the opening round to take a 3-0 lead she protected to the end to regain the gold medal she won in 2015 in Singapore.
“My parents were watching for the first time in 10 years. So I didn’t want to fail them. I know they prayed hard for my success,” said Lopez, who settled for the bronze in the 2017 games in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
She padded her lead to 7-2 before Chhoeung scored anew. But the Los Angeles-born Lopez proved steadier in the stretch.
“I’m very overwhelmed by the cheers of our kababayans (fellow Filipinos). It’s really nice to play in your home town. It was so inspiring,” added Lopez, 23.
Lopez took a 4-0 lead in the first round and connected on a head kick in the second for a 7-2 lead before a roundhouse sealed the deal for her. Lopez also won a bronze in the last year’s Asian Games in Jakarta, Indonesia.
Arven Alcantara and Laila Delo wound up with a silver each in the men’s under-68kg and women’s under-67kg categories, respectively.