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2016 Olympic Games

Diaz targets Tokyo 2020 gold

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Hidilyn Diaz landed back in the country Thursday evening after winning the Olympic silver medal in the women’s -53 kg event of weightlifting with warm welcome from her colleagues in the Philippine Navy and, of course, her mother, Emelita Diaz.

Upon landing, the 25-year old and three-time Olympian put on her silver medal around her mother’s neck. According to the elder Diaz, Hidilyn placed the medal on her because it is the latter’s birthday gift for her birthday, last August 7, which is incidentally also the day Diaz won the silver.

In her press conference Diaz thanked everyone for the warm welcome which also served as a thanksgiving to her heroics.

“Yung pag-panalo ko pong ito, pinakita lang po natin na kaya nating makipaglaban sa iba’t ibang bansa. Kaya nating lumaban sa Olympics,” the 25 year old said.

She also reiterated that this victory is for her mother.

“Sobrang saya po, kasi si nanay kasi ka-close ko. Para po sa kanya tong medalyang to,” she said.

Diaz also expressed her excitement to present her silver medal to President Rodrigo Duterte.

The weightlifter shared that she is doing this because she does not know whether there will be more generations that would follow in her footsteps. For her, all of this is for the next breed of athletes to get the support they need.

“Suporta sa sports, yung sa grassroots,” the Zamboanga City-native reflected.

The 2016 Games experience, according to Diaz, is not much different from her two previous stints. However, what makes the Rio Games special is that she finally won.

The Zamboangeña also dispelled rumors regarding retiring, which was her original plans after the 2016 Olympics.

“Parang ayaw ko na hong mag-retire,” she stated. “Parang ngayon pa lang kasi namimiss ko na yung pagbubuhat.”

“Tokyo po,” she simply mouthed to the delight of people in attendance.

Diaz believes she can vie for the gold this time given the chance. “Kaya ko po, kung susuportahan po ako,” she said.

“Siguro hindi na ko papayag na silver lang, gusto ko gold na. Siyempre pipilitin ko.”

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Grew to appreciate various sports from tennis to judo. True-maroon kiddo since the new millennium. Fanboy. Singer. Occasional sports writer.

2016 Olympic Games

Questions loom for Team Philippines

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Kirstie Elaine Alora, the last Filipino athlete to compete in the Rio Olympics, carried the country’s colors in Sunday’s closing ceremonies at the iconic Maracana Stadium.

The Rio Olympics came to a close, and the Tokyo Olympics were formally introduced.

Alora said if she stays fit, she will give the Olympics another shot in 2020, hoping to do better than her already gallant stand last Saturday.FILE PHOTO - Kirstie Elaine Alora

“If our association still wants me to, I will try to qualify,” said Alora.

The closing ceremony lasted three hours, and featured Brazilian music, dances by women in Carnival costumes, and the Japanese Prime Minister in a Super Mario costume. Everybody looked forward to the Tokyo Olympics after Rio formally bade goodbye.

International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach said the Rio Olympics, like all the rest, will be remembered with joy. People will remember the historic run of Usain Bolt and the ripples created by Michael Phelps.

“History will talk about a Rio before and a much better Rio after these Games,” said the IOC president.

For the Philippines, who won a silver medal courtesy of weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz, it’s time to move on to the next battles ahead – the SEA Games, Asian Games and then Tokyo.FILE PHOTO - Hidilyn Diaz wave

Chef-de-mission Jose Romasanta gave an assessment of the Philippine participation here. He called it “a good run” since the country had ended a 20-year medal drought in the Olympics. Diaz came here eyeing the bronze in the women’s 53 kg class, and won the silver.

Medals can be won in the Olympics, according to Romasanta, if the Philippines does what needs to be done. He said it has to do a better job discovering talents that can deliver the goods.

“It’s about time we come up with a really organized approach, a documented program, professional in manner, management style,” he said.

“We need a third eye. We need to commission an independent with the objective of assessing what really has to be done.”

Romasanta is speaking from experience because as head of the now-defunct Project: Gintong Alay, he had managed to steer the country to greater heights in sports.

“We need an agency or a group to champion this. I’m batting for a management group to help everybody through it and to help organize our plans,” he said before the closing ceremony.

Romasanta said the Philippines can’t keep going back to the drawing board after each international competition, and can’t rely on sports summits that don’t really mean a thing.

“Hindi puwede dakdakan lang!

“It has to come in an organized manner. We can all have our two cents worth. But we need to put things in fine form and professionally done,” he said.

To be successful in the Olympics, the Philippines must first identify the sports where Filipinos can really excel, and then find the talent from as far as the eyes can see.

“Why not go to the provinces to look for kids with physical attributes for a certain sport. Somebody has to have that eye for this and recruit them

“What I’m saying is there should be an organized and identified steady stream of athletes for particular sports if we want more qualifiers in the Olympics,” he added.

Then the Philippines can really look forward.

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2016 Olympic Games

Alora falls anew ending Philippines’ Rio 2016 campaign

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The Philippine campaign in the 2016 Rio Olympics came to a close Saturday evening with taekwondo’s Kirstie Elaine Alora breaking down in tears after absorbing two bitter defeats at the Carioca 3 of the Olympic Park in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Alora, the last Filipino athlete to vie for a medal, bowed to Olympic champion Maria Espinoza of Mexico, 4-1, in her opening match. Then she blew her chance to salvage at least a bronze when she lost to Wiam Dislam of Morocco. 7-5.

The loss to Espinoza, gold medal winner in the 2008 Beijing Olympics and bronze medalist in London four years ago, left Alora figuring in the repechage (losers round). She needed two wins to get the bronze that but could not get past the first challenge.

Dislam stood 5-foot-11 and was easily three inches taller than Alora. But it didn’t turn out to be a breeze for the flag-bearer of the Moroccan delegation to the 2012 London Olympics. She trailed Alora in the third round, and was down, 5-4, with only 20 seconds left.

Alora lowered her guard and got caught with the equalizer, and then with two more quick points to the body. By the time the final buzzer sounded, the 26-year-old Alora had lost a won match, and kissed her Olympic medal hopes in the +67 kg class goodbye.

Alora was in tears as she spoke to reporters.

“Another sad moment because it was my second chance. But I was denied.

“I think I should continue fighting in this sport because f I won a medal here I might end up saying, ‘This is my last,’” said the heavy 26-year-old after losing to Dislam.

“The Lord has plans for me to continue fighting. I’m happy with the results here but I was not fortunate enough.

“It’s God’s will. Maybe he wants me to win in the Asian Championships or the World Championships before I become an Olympic champion,” said Alora.

With her loss, the Philippines will close the book on this campaign with a silver medal courtesy of weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz in the women’s 53 kg division. It’s a historic win for Diaz because she became the country’s first female athlete to win a medal in the Olympics.

It was also the country’s first medal in 20 years.

“It was a good historic run. Our gallant thirteen athletes have made our country proud. All went fighting and doing everything they can and they are the best we have,” said chef-de-mission Jose Romasanta.

Up 5-4 lead, she suddenly trailed 7-5 in the closing seconds. She launched a last-ditch effort and could have turned things around. However, a head kick that could have netted her three points did not register on the sensor, allowing Dislam to go on with the win.

Alora’s coach, Roberto “Kitoy” Cruz, raised a challenge. Still, there was nothing to reverse the outcome as Alora’s kick touched Dislam’s head gear instead of the face.

“I really thought Elaine hit the face and not the head gear. That was worth three points. From 5-7 we could have won the fight 8-7. At least, she fought better in the repechage than in her first fight,” said Cruz as he waited for Alora to face reporters.

Cruz said Alora looked better facing a taller opponent like Dislam than Espinoza.

“Kung saan pa mas-matangkad ang kalaban,” said the six-time finweight champion in the SEA Games of Alora, who tried hard against Espinoza but trailed majority of the fight.

The 26-year-old Alora failed to establish her distance against the gold medalist in the 2008 Beijing Olympics and bronze medalist in the 2012 London Olympics.

The Filipina trailed after the first round, 1-0, equalized early in the second but faced a 3-1 deficit entering the third and final round. The Mexican took a 4-1 lead with under a minute left. Alora launched desperate moves in the closing seconds but could not land any solid shot.

Espinoza scored mostly on kicks to the body. Alora said she was wary of the Mexican’s head kicks.

“I could not anticipate what she was going to do to me. Each time she engages, she breaks out quickly. That made it very difficult for me,” said Alora, who still has a chance at the repechage and a crack at the bronze medal if Espinoza goes straight to the finals.

“Nahirapan ako sa stepping niya (I had difficulty with her stepping),” she said.

Espinoza, the top rank, went on to face China’s Shuyin Zheng in the gold medal match. This time, it was the Mexican who did not have the answer to Zheng’s tremendous height advantage, and she lost, 5-1.

Zheng, who stands 6’2”, won her first Olympic gold.

“I am taller so I tried to keep my distance. If she is close to me she is faster than me, so I kept her away. I feel very happy and excited with the win,” said the Chinese fighter.

Bianca Waalkden of Great Britain and Jackie Galloway of the United States, the losing semifinalists, eventually bagged the two bronze medals stakes in the +67 kg division won by a Serbian in 2012.

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2016 Olympic Games

Alora overwhelmed by opponent to end golden dream

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The Philippines kissed its gold medal hopes goodbye in taekwondo Saturday evening in Manila after Kirstie Elaine Alora bowed to Mexico’s Maria Espinoza at the Carioca 3 of the Olympic Park in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

The 26-year-old Alora failed to establish her distance against the gold medalist in the 2008 Beijing Olympics and bronze medalist in the 2012 London Olympics.

The Filipina trailed after the first round, 1-0, equalized early in the second but faced a 3-1 deficit entering the third and final round. The Mexican took a 4-1 lead with under a minute left. Alora launched desperate moves in the closing seconds but could not land any solid shot.

Espinoza scored mostly on kicks to the body. Alora said she was wary of the Mexican’s head kicks.

“I could not anticipate what she was going to do to me. Each time she engages, she breaks out quickly. That made it very difficult for me,” said Alora, who still has a chance at the repechage and a crack at the bronze medal if Espinoza goes straight to the finals.

“Nahirapan ako sa stepping niya (I had difficulty with her stepping.”

“There was not much of a different the first time we met in 2009 (Alora lost, 2-1). She threw the same kicks. It was her stepping that changed. That made it difficult for me

“She was not much into throwing head kicks. I was very careful with that. It was her stepping,” she lamented.

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2016 Olympic Games

Last Filipino Standing: Alora plunges into action tonight

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Filipina taekwondo jin Kirstie Elaine Alora plunges into action, confident of winning a medal and giving the Philippines its best finish ever in Olympics history.

Alora is the only remaining medal hope for the Philippines in the 2016 Rio Olympics. She will compete in the women’s +67 kg class and is out to follow the footsteps of silver medalist Hidilyn Diaz of weightlifting.

The 12 other Filipino athletes who qualified in six other sports to this Summer Games have already flown out of Rio de Janeiro, leaving Alora as the only one carrying the fight for the Philippines.

If she wins a medal of any color, the Philippines will surpass its previous best finish of three bronze medals in athletics, boxing, and swimming in the 1932 Los Angeles Olympics.

Alora’s match, or matches, come on the penultimate day of action in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. On Sunday, the Rio Oympics will come to a close.

Diaz won the silver in the women’s 53 kg class in weightlifting last August 7. She ended the country’s 20-year medal drought and became the first female athlete from the Philippines to win a medal in the Olympics.

Alora can rewrite history for the Philippines starting 10:30 a.m. [Rio time]. She needs to win three matches to reach the finals set at 10 p.m.

On the eve of the competition in her weight class, Alora welcomed her parents and elder sister to her living quarters inside the Athletes Village. She also spoke to sports officials led by Philippine Olympic Committee president Jose Cojuangco.

Alora will face 2008 Beijing Olympics gold medalist Maria Espinoza of Mexico in her first match. She said it will be the toughest match of her taekwondo career.

“I feel this is the toughest match of my life,” said Alora, who has worked very hard in training since she qualified to the Rio Games last April and since she arrived here in Rio last July 23.

“I’m just ready to fight tomorrow. I’m very confident that I will do my best to win and deliver a medal,” said Alora, adding that she is focusing on one fight at a time.

For now, the only fighter in her mind is Espinoza, ranked number one in their division. Aside from the gold in the Beijing Olympics, she has also won the bronze in the 2012 London Games.

Alora has her eyes on Espinoza, who is two years older at 28. The two fighters stand close to 5’8” and are of the same build. In Friday’s weigh-in, Alora was near 75 kgs.

The Filipina is not looking ahead of Espinoza, who was also a gold medalist in the 2007 World Championships, and is known for her powerful and aggressive style.

“Hindi ko iniisip na kung mananalo ako, sino ang sunod na kalaban. Focused lang sa unang laban. Kung mananalo at papalarin dun ko lang iisipin yung pangalawa,” she said.

Alora trained on Friday morning under her coach Kitoy Cruz then relaxed the rest of the day. Pinoy officials sought a special pass for her sister, Kathlyn, so she could have company in her room.

The two-time Asian Games champion is so focused on Espinoza that she’s not even thinking of winning a medal or giving the Philippines its best finish in the Olympics.

“Hindi din ako nag-iisip ng anything about winning a medal. Pressure lang yun. Bibigyan ko lang sarili ko ng added pressure. I just want to fight and perform very well,” she said.

Alora said she and her coach jave studied Espinoza’s style as hard as they can, and that she finds some similarity in their fighting style.

“May similarities kami. Ngayon more on front legs ang laban. Kami meron kaming style na hindi pa kami umaangat sa uso ngayon. Yun lang comparison ko.

“Medyo parehas kami ng style. Pero meron din pagkakaiba. Bilang ko yung style niya na kaya kong pasukan. Kung ganun ang gagawin niya kaya ko anticipate. Kasi nga nakalaban ko na siya,” Alora said.

They’ve met once in 2009 and the Mexican won, 2-1.

“Alam ko yung galaw niya. Pinanood naman namin yung mga laban niya. May kaya ako gawin to counter her,” said the graduate of St. Benilde.

“Siguro yung experience lang sa Olympics and lamang niya,” said Alora, who added that when they fought the first time she didn’t knew that Espinoza just won the gold in the Beijing Olympics.

“Lumaban lang ako. Na-shock na lang ako nung sinabi ng coach ko na ‘Alam mo ba yung nakalaban mo Olympic champion?’ O talaga? Okay lang pala eh. Na-shock din ako. Siguro kulang lang ako.

“Wala naman yung ‘wow’ (factor). Siguro may kulang lang ako nung time na yun. Now, siyempre I know her already. Nakalaban ko na siya. Na-experience ko na. Siguro okay ang match namin,” Alora furthered.

She doesn’t mind that she’s the only one left in contention and that her fellow Pinoy athletes who competed here are back home.

“I just stay focused. Hindi ko naman iniisip na buti pa sila tapos na at enjoying na. Ako focused lang. Basta I will do my best,” Alora concluded.

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