Taekwondo jin is PH’s last hope.
RIO DE JANEIRO – Kirstie Elaine Alora’s coach is confident that the Filipino taekwondo entry and the country’s lone remaining hope here has what it takes to go far in the 2016 Rio Olympics.
Alora, a 26-year-old fighter who hails from Biñan in Laguna, will make her Olympic debut Saturday morning (Saturday evening in Manila) in the women’s +67 kilogram division.
She faces an acid test in her opening match, an early battle with 2008 Beijing Olympics gold medalist and 2012 London Olympics bronze medalist Maria Espinoza of Mexico.
The Pinoy camp is not intimidated at all.
“They’ve fought once, right after the Beijing Olympics, and the Mexican won, 2-1. Elaine can beat this Mexican,” said coach Roberto “Kitoy” Cruz.
Alora, according to her bemedalled coach, will have to rely on her speed to have a chance against Espinoza, and she will do just that.
“Basta kailangan mabilis si Elaine. Dapat lumabas ang bilis niya sa laban na ito,” said Cruz, the former finweight king in the Southeast Asian Games.
Cruz is the most successful Filipino taekwondo jin, also having won three silver and two bronze medals in the World Championships, two bronze medals in the World Cup and a gold, a silver and a bronze in the Asian Championships.
He knows a good match when he sees one.
“Kaya ni Elaine,” said Cruz yesterday as he quietly celebrated his 44th birthday.
Espinoza, gold medalist in the 2007 World Championships and 2016 Pan American Games, also stands 5-foot-8 like Alora. She is two years older at 28 and is just a couple of kilos heavier.