Veteran campaigner Kirstie Elaine Alora will be going all out when she competes against 2008 Beijing Olympics gold medalist Maria Espinoza of Mexico in the opening round of the 2016 Olympic Games taekwondo competition in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
The 26-year-old Alora will begin her campaign for gold in the women’s +67 kg weight class on August 20.
National head coach Roberto “Kitoy” Cruz admitted it’s not going to be easy.
Cruz said Alora has what it takes to win a medal at any stage. But again, nothing will come easy when you’re up against the world best.
“The pressure is there. But as long as she gives her best and stays focused, then she has a chance,” said Cruz of Alora, a two-time bronze medalist it the Asian Games.
“She’s innately brave,” added the coach.
The early clash with Espinoza, who also won the bronze in the 2012 London Olympics, should give Alora the early chance to prove her worth in the Olympic level.
“Just fight and get through her (Espinoza) early on. That’s the mission anyway,” said Cruz.
Alora was back in the swing of things Monday after taking a needed rest Sunday when she ran a slight fever.
“I’m okay now. I just have to train today,” she said.
Cruz, now 43, represented the Philippines in various international competitions in the ‘90s, and won medals when none of his teammates could.
As a finweight, Cruz won the gold in the SEA Games six straight times from 1991 to 2001, and had three silver and two bronze medals in the World Championships.
In the Asian Championships, Cruz won the bronze, silver and gold during a five-year stretch starting in 1994. He also has two bronze medals from the World Cup.
Meanwhile, Filipino athletes who are all set and raring to compete welcomed a special visitor to their quarters inside the Athletes Village.
It was approaching noon when International Olympic Committee representative to the Philippines Mikee Cojuangco Jaworski paid the Pinoy athletes a visit.
The IOC official praised the athletes, including boxers Rogen Ladon and Charly Suarez, and weightlifters Nestor Colonia and Hidilyn Diaz, for all the hard work they’ve put in prior to the start of the competition on August 6.
“Make our country proud,” Jaworski told them.
Four athletes will see action for the Philippines on August 6 – table tennis’ Ian Lariba, swimmer Jessie Khing Lacuna and the two boxers.
It’s not an easy task to advance, not when it’s the Olympics, where only the best and finest athletes gather and compete once every four years.
Cojuangco, a gold medalist in equestrian during the 2002 Asian Games in Busan, knows how difficult it is to qualify for and be part of the Olympics.
“To qualify for the Olympics is already an achievement,” she said. “That’s why I’m proud of them. Everyone here is competitive and everyone wants to do their best. I hope their preparations for these Olympics are enough,” added Jaworski.
She said winning a medal in the Olympics is easier said than done, especially when the athletes are aware that the country has not win any medal in the Summer Games since 1996.
Twenty years of waiting will either end or continue here in Rio.