John Paul Lizardo (men’s -58 kg), Marlon Avenido (men’s -80 kg), Jyra Marie Lizardo (women’s -49 kg) and Jade Zafra (women’s -57 kg) will gun for at least a bronze medal in the tournament to secure outright slots in the 2012 Olympics.
The event is the first of a series of qualifiers for the Olympics, where each country is allowed a maximum of four qualifiers.
The Asian qualifying is slated in Bangkok in October.
“Our fighters will be pitted against the best from around 103 other countries,” said delegation head and Philippine Taekwondo Association vice president Sung Chon-hong. “They know how tough the tournament is going to be but they are confident of making the Olympics because of their experience and long preparation.”
Team manager Rocky Samson, Korean coach Kim Hong-sik and international referee Roland Campos round out the Smart-National team delegation.
Lizardo, the sport’s 24-year-old poster boy who shelved his TV and commercial modeling career to focus on the Olympics, is the country’s top Olympic aspirant.
He bagged silver medals in the 2010 Asian championships, the 2009 Southeast Asian Games and the 2008 Beijing Olympics test event, and bronzes in the 2010 Asian Games and 2008 Asian championships held in China.
Avenido, 21, is the 2009 Asian champion and a silver medalist in the 2009 Southeast Asian Games and the 2009 Asian Martial Arts Games. He is also the 2010 Asian championship bronze medalist.
Jyra Lizardo, John Paul’s 18-year-old sister, captured bronze medals in the 2009 Laos SEA Games, 2010 Korea Open and the 2008 Asian Championships. She also made the quarterfinal of the World Championships last year.
Zafra, 20, won a silver in the 2009 Asian tournament and a bronze in last year’s Korea Open.
The Philippines managed to enter two jins in the Beijing Games four years ago, and was able to qualify four in the 2000 Sydney Games, and three in 2004 Athens.
The Smart-Philippine team’s trip is supported by Smart Communications, PLDT and the Philippine Sports Commission.