Taekwondo team shares Samoa experience PIC 1

HOTSHOTS: All five members of the Guam National Taekwondo Team won a medal at the 2019 Pacific Games in Apia, Samoa. The medal haul accounted for five Guam's 19 total medals. From left: Ron Cook, coach; Alexander Allen, Tierra-Lynn Chargualaf, Amber Toves, Joseph Ho, Leon Ho, and Mike Ho, coach; display their 2019 PG medals. Photo courtesy of Mike Ho

It has been two weeks since the 2019 Pacific Games’ flame was extinguished, but the Guam National Taekwondo Team’s accomplishments remain a hot topic.

Guam's martial artists, hauling in five medals, secured over 25% of the island’s total. Every member of the five-person team, earning a medal each, lived up to coach Mike Ho’s expectations.

Team Guam consisted of Amber Toves, Tierra-Lynn Chargualaf, Alexander Allen, Joseph Ho and Leon Ho.

“The best possible result is everyone getting a medal,” said Ron Cook, national team head coach. “The kids followed the training, and we were able to execute our game plan. Our team did really, really well.”

The medal count, a marked improvement over the previous two games where Guam Taekwondo captured only four bronze medals, is a testament to the sport’s regional rise.

“It was a proud moment to see all of my teammates win,” Joseph Ho said.

Australia’s taekwondo team, at the sport’s pinnacle, of a possible 18 gold medals, won 15.

Mike Ho said, with the high level of competition, the surprise of the tournament was seeing the younger members of the Guam team reach the podium. Ho said he was impressed by how Chargualaf stepped up.

“She was nervous, but she stayed focused and won her semifinal match and made it to the finals,” he said.

Chargualaf, a recent graduate of Harvest Christian Academy, competed in the women’s under 53-kilogram weight class.

“I went in thinking I would be happy with just a bronze,” said Chargualaf. “It felt really good, with most of us being CHamoru, to all win medals, and to represent Guam.”

Although she will be heading to San Francisco University in the fall, Chargualaf plans to stick with her training and, again, someday, represent Guam.

Toves, who won a silver medal in the women’s under 57-kg division, faced off against a former world champion. In the gold medal match, she took on Australia’s Carmen Marton.

Competing in her second Pacific Games, Toves said the experience showed her “what she (was) lacking in competition.”

Looking forward to the 2023 Games in Honiara, Solomon Islands, the 2019 Games gave her a chance to size up the competition and plan her future.

“I want to get a gold medal,” Toves said.

Leon Ho, 20, having made his Pacific Games debut in the men’s under 58-kg division, earned a bronze medal. Happy to have reached the podium in Samoa, he wants gold at the Solomon Games.

“It’s nice to be on the podium, but it would be better to be able to hear the Guam anthem,” he said.

Allen and Joseph Ho, Team Guam’s senior members, helped improve the medal tally. In Samoa, Allen earned a silver medal.

Allen competed in the men’s under 74-kg division.

“For me, to even compete and get to the championship is rewarding,” Allen said.

Allen said his coaches and James Ji provided motivation and inspiration.

“If it wasn’t for them, I’d be doing something else,” Allen said. “Learning my limits and what I can do … was a true test of my training. I trained (as) a soldier for four years.”

For Guam’s Taekwondo team, like many of the island’s federations, top-level athletes face life’s realities. Without a dedicated training program, athletes must choose between sport and everything else.

Allen, who splits his time as a musician with the 50-Foot Radishes and working at Feathers 'N' Fins, said, “It’s a grind to balance the necessary training to compete against the best athletes in the world and pay bills.”

“These are part-time athletes that are training like and competing against Olympic athletes,” Mike Ho said.