Taekwondo team aims higher

READY TO REPRESENT: The Guam National Taekwondo team will head to the 2019 Pacific Games in an effort to improve upon its bronze finish in the 2015 games. The taekwondo competition will be held at the Harvest Centre Faleata in Apia, Samoa, beginning July 16. From left: head coach Mike Ho, Leon Ho, Joseph Ho, Tierra-Lynn Chargualaf, Amber Toves and Alexander Allen. Not Pictured: team manager Ron Cook. Justin Bennett/For The Guam Daily Post

The Guam National Taekwondo team heading to the 2019 Pacific Games in Apia, Samoa, is looking to build on the bronze medal win at the 2015 Papua New Guinea Games. Taekwondo competition will be hosted at the Harvest Centre Faleata from July 16 to 19.

Head coach Mike Ho is leading Team Guam to its third Pacific Games and has been hard at work installing a training and development program to compete with the best in the world.

Ho said he expects Olympic-caliber competition in Samoa. To ensure the athletes are ready, they have participated in tournaments in Korea since the 2015 Pacific Games, Ho said, adding that he expects their experience to aid in the team’s performance in Apia.

“We are going to try our best. ... It is going to be a tough fight,” Ho told The Guam Daily Post.

Team Guam will be led by Pacific Games bronze medalists Alexander Allen and Joseph Ho. Allen returns after capturing bronze in the 80-kg weight class at the 2015 Pacific Games.

Allen, 24, will be competing in the men’s under 74-kg division in Samoa.

“Trial and error over the last four years have helped me grow a lot as a person and an athlete,” he said.

Allen points out “consistency is the key” to compete against the world’s best, and adding that “at this level, when you’re at home sitting on your butt eating cereal, your opponent is training really hard.”

Allen’s advice to young athletes seeking to compete at the top of their sport is to “stay sharp, stay focused, stay healthy ... stick to the routine, make a plan and stick to the plan.”

Joseph Ho, 24, was a bronze medalist in the 54-kg division at the 2011 Pacific Games in New Caledonia, and returns for his third Pacific Games appearance. The elder of the two Ho brothers on the Guam squad will compete in the men’s under 63-kg division in Samoa.

“We just have to trust our training,” Joseph Ho stressed. “Be focused ... aware of our opponents and execute.”

Amber Toves, 24, returns for her second games and newcomers Leon Ho and Tierra-Lynn Chargualaf round out the Guam roster.

With the 2015 games being her first international competition, Toves has spent four years training hard and is looking forward to another shot in Samoa.

“I’ve been doing a lot of strength training and cardio to prepare this time,” Toves said. The 18-year-old will be competing in the women’s under 57-kg division.

“I’m a little bit nervous but also excited,” said Chargualaf, a 2019 Harvest Christian Academy graduate.

“It was good to get my feet wet in Korea to prepare myself,” added Chargualaf, who is competing in the women’s under 53-kg division.

Leon Ho, 20, said he has been training hard and heeding his coach’s advice. He will be competing in the men’s under 58-kg division and “expects conditioning to be important.”

Australia dominated the taekwondo competition at the 2015 Papua New Guinea Games with nine gold medals and 13 medals overall, and are likely to be the favorite at the Samoa Games.

French Polynesia and host Papua New Guinea were close behind with 14 and 15 total medals, respectively, in 2015.

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