After winning his first gold medal in the Southeast Asian Games (SEA Games) in Singapore, Filipino-American Samuel Morrison is now setting his sights on the qualifying events in Taekwondo for the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics.
Morrison won the SEA Games gold medal by beating Vietnamese Trung Duc Phan in the 68-kilogram class on Sunday.
“It is a great blessing that I won my first SEA Games title. I entered the Philippine team in 2010 and I trained hard,” Morrison, 25, told The Manila Times on Monday during a phone interview. “Now, I’m looking forward to something more competitive which is the Olympics.”
“When we arrive in Manila, we are going to start training for the Olympics. All my hard work have finally paid off so far,” added the 6’2” Morrison, who capitalized on his height and length advantages in beating his opponents.
Morrison added he also kicks fast and strong.
The Filipino-American scored lopsided wins over opponents Indonesian Argya Virangga (25-11) in quarterfinals; Somsanouk Phom¬mavanh of Laos (19-7) in the semifinals; and Vietnamese Phan (19-120) to claim the gold medal.
Besides Morrison, 19-year-old Pauline Louise Lopez bagged the country’s third gold medal in Taekwondo by beating Vietnamese Thi Thu Hien Pham (20-12) in the finals of women’s 57-kg category.
She outlasted Sonesavanh Sirimanotham of Laos (20-2) in the semifinals.
“We trained hard for many days and we’re thankful that we are going home with three gold medals,” said Lopez, who was the 2013 Asian Youth Games gold medalist in Nanjing, China.
PH squash players bag bronze
Meanwhile, Veteran campaigners Ricky Espinola and David Pelino earned a bronze in the men’s jumbo doubles of the 2015 Southeast Asian Games squash competitions at the Tanglin Club in Singapore.
Espinola and Pelino lost to Indonesians Ade Furkon and Sandi Perdana in the semifinals, 8-11, 3-11, to settle for bronze.
The Filipino tandem made it to the semifinals after scoring 1-1 in the preliminary round. They beat Yan Naung Oo and Thet Paing of Myanmar, 11-2, 11-7, but lost to Singaporeans Jia Phua and Vivian Rhamanan, 4-11, 5-11.
On the eve of the closing ceremonies, the Filipinos have already earned 28 golds, 35 silvers and 65 bronzes (as of 5 p.m.). Regardless of the outcome of the other events, the Philippines will be taking the sixth spot behind Thailand (87-83-67), Singapore (82-72-99), Vietnam (73-51-58), Malaysia (60-53-65) and Indonesia (45-56-71).
The national track and field squad was the most decorated team with five golds, seven silvers and nine bronzes followed by boxing with five golds, three silvers and two bronzes, tae kwon do with three golds, three silvers and two bronzes, and billiards and snooker with three golds, one silver and five bronzes.
Triathlon and softball added two golds each while cycling, gymnastics judo, rugby, shooting, tennis and wushu got one apiece.
Filipino-American Eric Shauwn Cray was the most bemedalled athlete with two golds (men’s 100-meter dash and 400m hurdles) while Caleb John Stuart notched a record-breaking feat in winning the men’s hammer throw gold.
Stuart submitted 65.63 meters to surpass the 62.23 old mark of Tanti¬pong Phetchaiya of Thailand in 2013 edition held in Naypyitaw, Myanmar.
WITH REPORT FROM EMIL C. NOGUERA