Three-time Southeast Asian Games champion Kirstie Elaine Alora snatched one of the Asian quota places for the 2016 Summer Olympics Taekwondo tournament for the women’s +67kg division, after finishing with the silver medal, in front of boisterous home crowd, Saturday at the Marriott Convention Center Grand Ballroom.
Needing just two wins to secure his place in the Olympiad, Alora started strong in the quarterfinals match against Nepal’s Nisha Rawal. The former De La Salle – College of Saint Benilde standout buck off a slow start in the first round and blocked the Nepali, 9-0. Alora fired off two head kicks in the second and third rounds to seal her progression in the semifinals with a 9-0 win.
The 26-year old veteran internationalist then followed it up with an impressive victory in the semifinal against top-ranked Akram Khodabandeh of Iran. Alora turned her height disadvantage to her own good as she turned to her punches in order to disrupt the game plan of the Iranian. The diminutive jin again successfully stunned Khodabandeh with two kicks to the head that sealed the win and the Olympic slot and ended the match with a 10-2 score line.
Alora was visibly tired against reigning Asian Games champion Sorn Seamvey of Cambodia. The Cambodian this time made sure that even Alora’s punches would not connect after repeatedly blocking the attempts of the Filipina. A head kick and a side 45 was enough for Seamvey to pull off the win at 5-0. Nonetheless, Alora is going to Summer Games in August.
“May ticket na po tayo, may sure slot na po tayo sa Olympics. Thankful po ako sa lahat ng sumuporta,” the first-time Olympian said after the grinding tournament.
Alora also admitted that she poured it all out in the semifinal against Khobandeh. She then furthered, “Yun po kasi yung pinaka-importanteng laban. ‘Pag talo po tayo dun wala tayong ticket [sa Rio].”
When asked on what she plans to do in preparation for the Olympics, Alora shared that, “Pahinga lang po siguro ng isang linggo, tapos po balik na sa training.”
It was a welcome development as the two Filipino male competitors came up short in their Olympic bid.
Former UAAP Heavyweight Champion Kris Uy led 6-3 going into the final round against Palestine’s Bahri Tanrikulu; however, the visitor turned it around in the third frame that sent the match into a golden point round. In the end, Tanrikulu landed a successful counter on Uy’s torso to end the Filipino’s Olympic dream.
On the other hand, Samuel Morrison started his day with a stoppage of India’s Navjeet Maan. The Indian scored on two kicks, but a punch from Morrison inadvertently hit the former’s neck. Maan received the mandatory count from the referee, who ultimately deemed that he could not continue and gave the Filipino the win.
Morrison could not follow up on the victory, however, as he feel victim to Chinese Taipei’s Wei-Ting Liu’s comeback win. The veteran Philippine Team mainstay plucked points off penalties of Liu along with punches to lead at 6-3 going into the final minute of the third round. The multi-titled Taiwanese, however, finally connected on two roundhouse kicks to steal the win and the chance for that ticket to Rio.
2015 Southeast Asian Games gold medalist Pauline Flores seeks to join Alora to the Rio Olympics as she is set to compete at 9:00am Sunday, April 17. Flores will face Nuruk Farah Alisa Roslan of Malaysia in the quarterfinals.
Photo courtesy of Peter Baltazar (Sports on Air)