Taekwondo jin Alora puts off retirement to pursue Tokyo berth

Camille B. Naredo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 04 2020 03:59 PM

Kirstie Elaine Alora of the Philippines (red) competes against Sorn Seavmey of Cambodia (blue) in the finals of the women's -73 kg category of the 29th Southeast Asian Games competition Tuesday at the Kuala Lumpur Convention Center. POC/PSC Pool

MANILA, Philippines -- Already a veteran of seven Southeast Asian Games and an Olympian in 2016, taekwondo jin Kirstie Elaine Alora decided to put off her retirement plans for one last major goal.

Speaking on Radyo Pilipinas last Friday, Alora said she still has her eyes set on qualifying for the Tokyo Olympics, which will take place next year after being postponed due to the global coronavirus pandemic.

"Talagang 'di rin po kami nagpapabaya. I think we have a good chance pa rin po to qualify," said Alora.

The 30-year-old jin has kept herself in good shape even during the long quarantine period in the country. She counts herself lucky: she and another national team member, Arven Alcantara, share the same condominium building and so they could train together.

The country's taekwondo federation sent the pair training mats and pads to help them, and they gained permission to train at their building's roof deck.

Alora is upbeat of her chances to qualify, especially as the heavy-hitters in her weight class -- jins from South Korea and China -- have already secured their slots via the World Taekwondo rankings.

"'Yun lang naman po 'yung medyo talagang kumbaga po, talagang powerhouse po sa weight ko sa Asia. So I think I have a good chance for next year's qualifying," she said.

In 2016, Alora placed second in the Asian Olympic Qualifying Tournament, securing her spot in the Rio Olympics where she lost in the first round to former Olympic champion María Espinoza of Mexico.

The schedule of the Asian Olympic Qualifying Tournament for the Tokyo Games has yet to be announced, but Alora expects that it will take place next year.

Her dream of making it to a second straight Olympic Games convinced Alora to put off retirement. The jin had considered quitting last year, during her preparations for the 2019 SEA Games.

"'Yung last SEA Games, kasi for me po, sabi ko 'pag nag-gold po ako, I'm done. Pero 'yun nga po, unfortunately nanalo po ako ng silver, so sabi ko, siguro dapat may isa pang chance," said Alora.

Alora had bowed to her Cambodian rival, Sorn Seavmey, in Manila last December. It was the second straight SEA Games that Alora had lost to Seavmey, a former Asian Games gold medalist.

"Sabi ko, sakto, next year, this year is the qualifying. Sabi ko, make it or break it na po talaga," said Alora.

The veteran is putting her focus on qualifying for Tokyo, as there is no assurance that she can compete in the 2021 SEA Games in Vietnam.

"It depends pa rin po sa host country, if they're gonna put my weight category po. Kasi usually they cut the heavier weights po, so 'yun po hindi po ako ang makapagsabi niyan," she said.

"But if meron pong weight category ko, why not po?" she added.

Alora has won three gold medals in the SEA Games, in Manila in 2005, in Jakarta-Palembang in 2007 and in Naypyidaw in 2013. Since then, she has won four consecutive silver medals, the last three of which came while competing at the 73kg weight class.

Alora has also won bronze in the 2010 and 2014 Asian Games, and a bronze at the 2017 Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games in Ashgabat.