Kurt Barbosa’s setback in the Tokyo Olympics fired him up, powering him to the gold medal in the 31st Southeast Asian Games in Hanoi recently.,Barbosa said his loss to world No. 1 Jang Jun of South Korea in the Round of 16 of the men’s -58kg event of the Summer Games last year helped him develop the underdog mentality that he used in facing stronger foes in the previous biennial meet.,Jang, the reigning world champion, crushed Barbosa right from the opening bell as he erected a 12-1 lead in the first round en route to a 26-6 victory.,Then, he went on to clinch the Olympic bronze medal in a sport that originated from South Korea.,Barbosa said the experience he gained from fighting the world’s best player helped him improved physically, mentally and emotionally, prompting him to be at his best when he defended his title in the SEA Games.,“I never thought of myself as a defending gold medalist in the SEA Games or an Olympian. I always thought that I have to go back to zero. I have to work very hard to win that SEA Games gold medal,” Barbosa told Daily Tribune in a conversation.,“My court management has been better and I can control it. I have a better feel about my game and I don’t feel pressured. After the Olympics, I focused on my strength and conditioning and my stamina.”,True enough, Barbosa displayed vast improvement in the SEA Games.,He defeated hometown bet Ngoc Lam Duong in the quarterfinals, 31-10, before escaping Reinaldy Atmanegara of Indonesia in the semifinals, 44-42, to set up a title duel with powerhouse Panachai Jaijula of Thailand.,Barbosa got the job done as he overwhelmed the noted Thai star, 16-7, to clinch his second SEA Games gold medal in the men’s -54kg event.,Despite winning the gold, Barbosa’s hunt for glory is still far from over.,In fact, he is bracing for the 25th Asian Taekwondo Championship from 24 to 27 June in Chuncheon, South Korea as well as the SEA Games in Phnom Penh and Asian Games in Hangzhou next year.,“Our process was continuous. We never stopped and never rested for too long,” Barbosa said.,“I felt how to manage my court because after the Olympics, we never had any competition. There are a lot of adjustments I need to do since the tournament will be per round. We have to change our strategy.”
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