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PH taekwondo bet Elaine Alora going up vs Mexican gold medalist
by rick olivares
RIO DE JANEIRO – When Kirstie Elaine Alora takes to the mat in Olympic taekwondo competition on August 20, her first match will be like a gold medal match. The 26-year old Filipina will be up against no less than the 2008 Beijing Olympics gold medalist Maria Del Rosario Espinoza of Mexico in a +67 kg weight class match.
The 28-year old Espinoza also won a bronze medal in the same weight class during the 2012 London Olympics. She also bagged the gold in the 2007 World Taekwondo Championships in Beijing and a gold and a silver respectively in the 2007 Pan American Games in RIo De Janeiro and in 2015 in Toronto, Canada.
What makes the Mexican lass an even more daunting challenge is that she currently serves in the Armed Forces.
“No doubt, Elaine will have her hands full,” observed her head coach Roberto “Kitoy” Cruz who himself represented the Philippines with aplomb. Cruz won gold medals in six straight Southeast Asian Games from 1991-2001and brought home 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. “I hope I can pass on to her my knowledge and experience that could help her overcome adversity."
The 43-year old Cruz said Alora, a two-time Asian Games bronze medalist, 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."
Alora normally gives away an inch or two in height against her opponents but what she lacks in height and reach she makes up with a big heart and a lot of smarts. “Likas na matapang (She’s pure heart),” said the coach.
In Espinoza, she’ll be up against someone close to her size as both taekwondo practicioners stand at 5’8”.
The early clash with Espinoza should give Alora the early chance to prove her worth in the Olympic level.
“It’s a big test and a good challenge,” said Alora of the match up. “I’ll give it my best."