Brunei's Fathullah Mohd Taib (L) kicks the Philippines' Paul Romero during their men's 58-63kg (bantam weight) category first round match at the 27th Southeast Asian (SEA) Games yesterday. BT/ Jason Thomas
Fathullah Mohammad Taib's third Southeast Asian (SEA) Games campaign has ended the way of his first two with another first round loss yesterday, though this year's fight was probably the best out of the three.
The 23-year-old, who also competed at the 2009 Laos SEA Games and 2011 Indonesia SEA Games, was unable to clear the first hurdle here at the 2013 Games - falling 9-6 to the Philippines Paul Romero in the men's 58-63kg (bantam weight) category.
Fathullah's 2011 Games saw him lose 2-1 to Malaysia's Rusfredy Tokan Petrus in the first round of the same category, which in itself was an improvement on his result at the 2009 Games when he was beaten 11-1 by Singapore's Jason Tan in the same stage of the men's fin weight (below 54kg) category.
Joint-bronze medallist in the men's 53-58kg (flyweight) class at the 2010 Guangzhou Asian Games, Romero made his experience show after taking an early 3-1 lead against Fathullah before building a 6-1 cushion yesterday.
Fathullah pegged the Filipino back to 6-3 soon after and forced a 6-6 stalemate in the last 30 seconds of the second round at the Wunna Theikdi Indoor Stadium A.
However, Fathullah was unable to keep up with his opponent in the third round, eventually losing three points in the opening blows of the final stanza.
Punches or kicks to the body or head are awarded with one point while kicks to the head are awarded three points.
Despite national coach Kim Jung jun urging Fathullah on from the sidelines, he could not find a way past Romero - with the disappointed South Korean coach covering his face with his hands as the match ended.
Romero was an entry at July's 2013 World Taekwondo Championships in Mexico, and though he failed to advance past the first round of 64 fighters, Fathullah felt it was his opponent's class that ultimately won him the match.
Fathullah did, though, admit that fatigue also played a part in deciding the outcome.
"Even though I lost, I lost to a world-class player," said Fathullah.
"I felt I could fight him.
"Of course I was tired in the last round but everyone gets tired when they fight... What I need to do is improve on my fitness," he added.
The match could have swung Fathullah's side had he attacked more in the last round, though he said he was wary of doing so in case Romero caught him off guard.
"Usually in the third round the fighter who is leading mostly just counter-attacks," explained Fathullah, a silver medalist at last year's Korea Open International Taekwondo Championships in Gyeongju, South Korea.
"So I knew if I attacked he was ready to counter," said Fathullah, adding that Kim was advising him to concentrate on his attacks when he was yelling instructions to him during the final round.
Brunei will, at the very least, have a bronze to show from the taekwondo competition after the country's only other taekwondo exponent here at the Games, Nurulain Md Jafa'ar, was awarded a bye in today's women's 68-73kg (middle weight) category - where there are only six contestants.
Both Fathullah and Nurulain represented Brunei at October's Islamic Solidarity Games in Indonesia but did not return with medals after first round losses.
Brunei won bronze at the 2011 SEA Games when Mohammad Saifullah Hj Mohtar lost his sole match to Thailand's eventual champion Nattapat Tantramar in the 74-80kg (welterweight) category.
The 9-2 defeat earned him shared bronze with the other losing semi-finalist, Vietnam's Vo Hoang Giao - both who were given byes to the semis and did not compete in the first round (quarter-finals).