Taekwondo jin Kurt Barbosa became the ninth Filipino athlete to earn a spot in the Tokyo Olympics after securing a top two finish in the Asian qualifiers in Amman.
The former University Athletic Association of the Philippines’ Most Valuable Player delivered a furious comeback to stun hometown favorite Zaid Al-Halawani, 50-49, in the under-58 kilogram semifinals on Saturday.
Barbosa let a solid start that saw him leading, 14-11, after Round 1 slip away as a dominant second round from Al-Halawani pushed him ahead, 28-24, entering Round 3.
Al-Halawani looked to pull away as he stretched his lead to 15, 41-26 lead with 1:22 to go.
However, Barbosa slowly came back and cut the lead down to four, 48-44, with 21 seconds left.
Al-Halawani thought he found breathing room after a Barbosa foul put him back up by five, 49-44, with 12 seconds remaining.
But three straight two-point hits pushed Barbosa upfront with only two seconds remaining, and Al-Halawani failed to answer as time expired.
Barbosa quickly celebrated after completing the huge comeback.
Barbosa is battling Thai rival Ramnarong Sawekwiharee in the final as of this posting.
Sawekwiharee also booked a spot in the Tokyo Olympics after ousting Pakistan’s Haroon Khan in their own semifinal duel, 32-26.
Meanwhile, Kirstie Alora settled for the bronze in the plus-67 kilogram division after beating Mokhru Khalimova of Tajikistan, 7-5, in their third place match.
Alora’s bronze medal win was a consolation after missing out on a second straight Olympic appearance following a 27-5 domination of Uzbekistan’s Svetlana Osipova in their semifinal match.
The country has now nine athletes in the Tokyo Olympics with Barbosa joining 2016 Rio Olympics silver medalist Hidilyn Diaz (weightlifting), Caloy Yulo (gymnastics), EJ Obiena (pole vault), Cris Nievarez (rowing), and Eumir Marcial, Nesthy Petecio, Irish Magno Carlo Paalam (boxing).
The 2020 Tokyo Olympics, postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic, are scheduled to be held between July 23 and Aug. 8 this year. The Paralympics will follow from Aug. 24 to Sept. 5.*PNA