Lopez, Morrison lead taekwondo's seven-medal harvest

Pauline Lopez reclaims taekwondo gold (3:12)

Pauline Lopez won gold in the under-57kg kyorugi event in taekwondo. It was her first gold since the 2015 SEA Games. (3:12)

The Philippine Taekwondo team bagged three golds and four silvers in the 30th Southeast Asian Games Sunday at the Ninoy Aquino Stadium.

Pauline Lopez delivered the first gold in the under-57kg category with her impressive win over Aliza Chhoeung of Cambodia, 12-4, in the finals. She raced to a 7-2 early lead and won the match with a roundhouse kick to the head.

"It means so much to me because it's homecourt," said Lopez. "It's the first time my parents are watching me compete internationally after 10 years, so it's very meaningful to me and also because it's in the Philippines. Everyone's here supporting you here the crowd and gave me so much boost so much motivation, inspiration."

Lopez, 24, was in her element in the under-57kg category where she also won gold in 2015. It was a bounce-back performance for her coming after her bronze finish in the 2017 SEA Games and another bronze medal in the 2018 Asian Games. This year, she came out determined to avenge her losses.

"Last year, each training or every time I'd watch my fight or [watch] the videos, all the more I was getting pushed to really go hard and train so that I could step on that gold medal podium again," Lopez said.

"I think for me personally it was a different vibe mainly because of my teammates. This time, we were helping each other although it's an individual sport," she added.

Dave Cea (under-74kg) and Samuel Morrison (under-80kg) also won gold in their respective categories. Cea opened his match against Thailand's Nutthawee Klompong with a 10-0 lead in the very first round and never looked back. The former National University standout earned first place with a final score of 10-5 over his Thai counterpart.

"We studied all our opponents before going into the games," Cea said in Filipino. "We watched all the previous fights of each player."

Morrison, meanwhile, dominated Joshua Abdullah of Malaysia, 30-8. This was Morrison's third gold medal in the SEA Games.

Settling for silver were Arven Alcantara (under-68kg), Laila Delo (under-67kg), Kirstie Elaine Alora (over-73kg), and Kristopher Robert Uy (over-87kg).

Alcantara was down early in his fight against Thailand's Lakchai Hauihongthong but was able to make a late rally. He momentarily took a one-point lead in the waning moments but a review by the officials gave three points back to Hauihongthong, who took the 24-22 victory.

Alora and Delo also endured heartbreaking defeats, losing in the golden point round. In case of a tie after three rounds, each match goes to a sudden death wherein the first fighter to make a hit wins. Both Alora and Delo failed to strike first, losing the gold against their respective foes.

In the last match, Uy was overpowered by Nattapat Nattapat Tantramart of Thailand who took the convincing 17-4 win.

After a huge medal tally, Lopez and the rest of the Philippine Taekwondo team can take pride in their accomplishment.

"It means a lot because we're really showcasing that it's not just mere talk, we're really putting in the work, putting in the effort," said Lopez. "There's so much support from our association, from the Philippine Sports Commission, Olympic Committee, and everyone that's backing us up. And because of that, and because of all the support of the Filipinos, we're out here just performing."