Rio veteran Alora banners taekwondo jins in Olympic qualifier

Kirstie Elaine Alora of the Philippines (red) competes against Sorn Seavmey of Cambodia (blue) in the finals of the women's -73 kg category of the 29th Southeast Asian Games competition.

MANILA, Philippines – Rio Olympics veteran Elaine Alora leads a crack, four-member Philippine taekwondo team seeking a berth or two in the Tokyo Games in July as they wage war in the Asian Qualification tournament slated May 21 and 22 in Amman, Jordan.

Alora — who copped a silver medal in this same event the country hosted five years ago to earn a spot to the 2016 Rio Olympics — along with Kurt Barbosa, Arven Alcantara and Pauline Lopez, will leave Friday night along with coaches Carlos Padilla V and Al Christian dela Cruz.

And they are bringing with them the country’s hopes of snaring more slots to the quadrennial event.

Kicking off the Filipinos’ campaign is Alcantara in the men’s -68kgs on Friday while Barbosa (men’s -58kgs), Lopez (women’s -56kgs) and Alora (women’s +73kg) follow suit the next day.

To qualify, they would need to finish in the top two.

If they do, they would join pole-vaulter EJ Obiena, gymnast Caloy Yulo, boxers Eumir Marcial, Irish Magno, Nesthy Petecio and Carlo Paalam and 2016 Rio Olympics weightlifting silver medalist Hidilyn Diaz and rower Cris Nievarez in Tokyo.

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National team coach Dindo Simpao is optimistic they could snatch at least two berths.

“We’re hoping for two slots, if not four,” said Simpao in the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) Hour.

It will be the first time the national jins are seeing action in a real competition since raking in eight gold, nine silver and four bronze medals in topping the sport in the 2019 Southeast Asian Games in Manila.

“Mahirap nung unang mga araw nung pumasok kami sa bubble sa Calamba pero nakayanan naman. Equal footing tingin ko dyan kasi sigurado affected din sila ng pandemic,” said the 31-year-old Alora.

The team will return on May 25, and there is hope they would also bring with them Olympic tickets.

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