It was taekwondo that saved Kirstie Elaine Alora from bullying during her childhood.
Alora, 26, is the lone Filipino jin who will compete in the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics in August.
“I started playing taekwondo when I was six years old in a school club in Laguna. I was bullied, then. So I think of taekwondo as a way to escape bullying,” Alora told The Manila
Times in an interview.
“I think by playing this sport, I can protect myself from them.”
Skilled in the Korean martial art at the age of 10, the bullying stopped and Alora decided to take taekwondo training seriously.
“I got more serious on the sport when I was nine or 10. Earlier, when I was eight years old,
I competed the first time and won a medal. That’s when I said to myself that this sport is okay and my coaches also told me that I have a potential.”
Alora started competing in regional and national meets at the age of eight and tested her mettle in the Batang Pinoy in Bacolod when she was 10.
It was also at 10 when she fought her first international competition. Though she didn’t win, Alora said it was an opportunity for her to realize that she really enjoys taekwondo and she wants to represent the Philippines in more international tournaments.
“I lost but I really enjoyed the experience. It is a big opportunity to go to other places and represent the country,” she said.
Alora disclosed that she didn’t really plan of competing in the Olympics.
“In the past, it seems I don’t like to [play in the Olympics], but whenever there is a qualifying tournaments, I started to like it.”
“I can say that my ticket to Rio this year is something I really aimed for. In God’s mercy, I was able to qualify.”
Alora added that she wanted to fulfill her elder sister Eunice’s dream of becoming an Olympian.
“I look up to her as my idol. She would really train in the past to fulfill her dream to become a national athlete and she really tries to get into the Olympics.”
“She was sent to qualifying tournaments but she is lacking and losing in every game.”
“That is why I said to myself, I want to fulfill her dream,” Alora said.
Alora’s sister was a former national taekwondo player until 2011. Eunice is currently working in the banking industry.
Alora’s parent s migrated to the United States four years ago but despite her busy schedule, the Rio-bound jin makes sure she has time to spend with her siblings during the weekends.
Alora has always receives constant reminders from her parents.
“They always told me to really do my best in training. They said that this opportunity is once in a lifetime so I must not waste it. They remind me also to avoid injuries which may halt my trip to Rio.”
Alora is training three times a day to attain peak form for the quadrennial meet.
Her morning training focuses on stamina and kicking drills while in the afternoon, she lifts weights for strength and conditioning.
Night is devoted to sparring with taller male jins, which will prepare her to fight taller and stronger opponents.
Alora is thankful for the support from the Philippine Sports Commission, Philippine Olympic Committee and the Philippine Taekwondo Association.
She also thanked Filipinos who kept on praying for her upcoming campaign in Rio.
“I promise to our fellow countrymen that I will do my best to get a medal. Any color of medal.”
As a parting shot, Alora encourages the youth to get into sports.
“To the kids out there, I encourage you to try taekwondo or any other sport. Just try and do your best. Inculcate in your heart the things you really want. If you go to training, learn and be the best.”