Kirstie Elaine Alora took up martial arts as an escape from childhood bullies.
Many years later, the bemedalled taekwondo jin continued the fight, this time to bring honor to the country.
“I started taekwondo when I was a kid sa Laguna sa isang school club. Parang extra curricular activity lang sa school. Kasi nabubully ako so parang yun ang naging escape plan ko from bullies,” the bespectacled Alora told ABS-CBN News in a recent interview during the team's training camp.
“Nagustuhan ko naman so tinuloy-tuloy ko na.”
But her mom was reluctant at first to let her engage in a contact sport, especially martial arts. As a baby, she suffered from dislocated hips. At the age of 6, she sustained a fracture in her clavicle.
These, however, did not deter her from taking up the Korean martial art.
“Sabi ko, ‘Ma, wala namang naging effect ang mga nangyari sa akin. ‘Di naman naka-apekto sa akin nung nagtaekwondo ako,’” said Alora.
Video by George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News
Soon, she found herself competing and winning in local contests within Laguna. Her coach decided to sign her up in competitions in Metro Manila where she would compete almost every month.
“Ini-invite na rin ako sa iba't-ibang competitions, dumadayo na ako ng ibang lugar pag may open, invitationals para mahone din yung anumang skill ko na nakita ng mga coaches,” said Alora.
At the age of 15, she became part of the Philippine national team that competed in the 2005 Southeast Asian Games in Manila. There, she won her first SEA Games gold medal in the featherweight class.
It didn’t stop there.
In the 2010 Asian Games in Guangzhou, China she nabbed a bronze in the 73-kilogram division. She grabbed two more gold medals in the 2011 Indonesia and 2013 Myanmar SEA Games before copping another bronze in the 2014 Asian Games in Incheon.
In 2016, she became an Olympian by securing a silver in the Asian taekwondo Olympic qualification tournament.
This month, Alora plans to win her fourth gold medal in the 29th SEA Games in Kuala Lumpur.
It won’t be easy, she admitted, but she’s willing to put on the work needed to fulfill her task.
“Sa preparations we have twice-a-day training. Sa umaga we have strength and conditioning, techniques. Sa gabi sparring, scrimmage. Pinag-aaralan din namin iyong mga possible na makakalaban naming sa SEA Games,” said Alora.
“Meron akong laging nakakalaban from Cambodia, 6-foot-2 ang height. Nahihirapan talaga ako sa kanya at natalo na niya ako ng dalawang beses. Siya ‘yung pinakamatinding makakalaban ko sa SEA Games.”
The task, however, is no longer about fighting off school bullies. For Alora, the task is about constant improvement and giving glory to the country.
“Kasi ang expectation ng mga tao sa iyo masmataas na ngayon. Iyon na ang nagmo-motivate sa akin. Hindi pwedeng mag-stay na dito lang ako. Dapat laging umaangat ng umaangat everytime I train and compete,” she said.
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