Kirstie Alora unfazed by top-seeded foe, hopes to end PH campaign with a bang
Kirstie Alora's first foe in Rio is former Olympic gold medalist Maria Espinoza. Jerome Ascano

RIO DE JANEIRO - As the last one standing for the Philippine team in the XXXI Olympiad here, Kirstie Alora is hoping to end the country's campaign in a blaze of glory.

Alora keeps her eyes on the prize despite the daunting task that awaits her when she debuts in the +67 kg class of the women's taekwondo competions on Friday (Saturday, Manila time).

The only Filipina taekwondo bet faces former Beijing Olympic gold medalist and top seed Maria Espinoza of Mexico in her first bout, but remains confident of her chance of advancing to the second round.

"Kaya ko 'yan," said the 26-year-old Alora.

"Kaya ni Elaine 'yan," seconded her coach Kitoy Cruz.

Alora and Espinoza already met once in the past shortly after the Beijing Games in 2008, with the Mexican emerging a close 2-1 winner.

But the 5-foot-8 Filipina said she's done the necessary adjustments by reviewing the past fights of Espinoza. 

"Meron na kaming idea kung paano siya gagalawan sa laban," said Alora.

The lady jin has been here as early as July 23 and she's relieved that the long wait for her is about to come to an end.

"Na-excite na ako that after a long wait, at least mailalabas ko na lahat ng ginawa ko (sa training)," she said.

And being the last Filipino to see action in the Olympics hardly adds any pressure on her part.

"Hindi ko na iniisip yun (pressure)," Alora said. "Basta gagawin ko lang kung ano ang kailangan kong gawin (sa laban)."

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