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End of the road

  • Written by Joe S. Antonio
  • Published in Other Sports
  • Read: 316

Just like her 11 teammates, Alora goes home empty-handed

TAEKWONDO bet Kirstie Elaine Alora stayed almost one month in faraway Rio waiting for this big Olympic moment. Too bad, the brave lady didn’t last a day relishing the rare experience.

In a forgettable stint capping Team Philippines’ campaign in the 31st Olympics on Saturday (Sunday, Manila time), Alora lost her first bout in the repechage, taking a 5-7 beating at the hands of  tall, beautiful Wiam Dislam of Morocco in a painful defeat that left her breaking down in tears.
Luck was simply not on the side of Alora, whose first appearance as an Olympian earlier in the day ended in defeat as she absorbed a 1-4 setback to the battle-tested Maria Ezpinoza of Mexico in their over-67 kilogram division match.
That loss, which came in full view of her parents and a handful of Team PH officials at the Carioca Arena, kicked the Filipina fighter out of the gold medal chase and dropped her to the losers’ round called repechage where the best she could win was a bronze medal.
Turns out, winning even a single bout proved a tough one for the Filipina.
“Another sad moment because it was my second chance. But I was denied. I think I should continue fighting in this sport because if I won a medal here I might end up saying, ‘This is my last,’” said Alora, only 26.
“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,” she added.
So the 13-member Team PH ended its campaign here with only medal to show courtesy of veteran Hidilyn Diaz, who won the silver in the 53-kilogram division of weightlifting.
That ended the country’s 20-year search for a medal in the biggest, grandest sporting spectacle in the world, something that sent team officials proclaiming the campaign as successful and historic.
“It was a historic run,” said chef de mission Joey Romasanta.
To some extent, it was. But one would strongly disagree if compared to those dished out by the nation’s neighbours in Southeast  Asia like Thailand, which won two gold medals, and Vietnam and Singapore, which both made a breakthrough with one victory each.
Hey, even Indonesia and Malaysia finished with a lot more medals than the Philippines.
With all her 12 teammates back at home, Alora was left alone to carry the fight for the Team PH, which wanted the taekwondo star to win in its bid to achieve its finest Olympic stint ever since 1924.
But Alora was not up to the task.
Against the 5-foot-11, London Olympics veteran  Dislam, Elaine let a won match slip away from her hands when she, ahead 5-4 with 20 seconds left in the bout,  lowered her guard and got caught with the equalizer.
Then as the third and final round was about to end, Dislam caught the Filipina with two quick, hard blows to the body to go up at 7-5, before heroically surviving  Alora’s last-ditch  effort to salvage the contest.
As parting shot, Alora made a head kick that could have netted her three points. But it didn’t register  on the sensor, to the chagrin to coach Roberto Cruz.
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.
Cruz said Alora looked better facing a taller opponent like Dislam than Espinoza.
“Kung saan pa mas matangkad ang kalaban,” said the six-time SEA Games titlist of Alora, who tried hard against Espinoza but trailed most of the way.
Against Espinoza, the Filipina trailed after the first round, 1-0, equalized early in the second but faced a 1-3 deficit entering the third round. The Mexican took a 4-1 lead with under a minute left. Aware of the score, Alora launched desperate moves in the closing seconds, but she failed miserably.
“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.
“Nahirapan ako sa stepping niya (I had difficulty with her stepping),” she said.