RIO DE JANEIRO – Kirstie Elaine Alora will have no less than the finest taekwondo athlete the country has ever produced manning her side in the XXXI Olympiad here.
Roberto ‘Kitoy’ Cruz brings with him a vast experience culled from waging war in the World and Asian Championships, Olympics, and the Southeast Asian Games in training the 26-year-old Alora for the biggest battle of her life.
Cruz sees Alora a potential medalist for the country, although he knows it’s going to be one rough ride for the Filipina as she goes up against the world’s best.
A two-time bronze medal winner in the Asian Games, Alora will be fighting in the women’s +67 kg. weight class. Competitions in taekwondo won’t start though until August 20.
“The pressure is there,” said the bemedalled jin turned coach. “But as long as she gives her best and stays focused, then she has a chance.”
Cruz’s credentials speak for itself.
Fighting as a finweight, Cruz, now 43, was the undisputed champion in his division in the SEA Games, dominating the meet from 1991 to 2001.
He won three silver and two bronze medals in the World Championships, bronze medals in the World Cup, and was gold, silver, and bronze winners in the Asian Championships.
Cruz saw action in his first and only Olympic stint in 2000 in Sydney when taekwondo officially became a medal sport.
The taekwondo coach said Alora will have her hands full right on her opening bout as she’s up against Olympic gold medalist (2008 Beijing) Maria Espinoza of Mexico.
One distinct trait of the Filipina however, should stand out.
“Likas na matapang,” said Cruz of Alora. “Basta laban lang. Get through her (Espinoza) early on. That’s the mission anyway.”