By Jerome Lagunzad
Unlike in her previous stints in the biennial meet, taekwondo star Kirstie Elaine Alora will find herself in the spotlight immediately as she will serve as the country’s flag bearer during the opening rites of the 29th Southeast Asian Games on Aug. 19 at the sprawling Bukit Jalil National Stadium in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
And the 2016 Rio De Janeiro Olympic veteran is confident she can command a lion’s share of the limelight anew when she guns for her fourth SEAG gold medal in the women’s under-73 kilogram division which was removed by organizers of the Singapore edition two years ago.
“Nakakadagdag po talaga ng kumpiyansa na mapili ako bilang flagbearer ng bansa natin. Sa akin na po tututok ‘yung mata ng mga tao sa parada pa lang. Kaya dapat mas pagbutihan ko po ‘pag nasa actual competition na ako,” said Alora, 27, in a phone interview yesterday.
The first jin to be given such an “honor and pride” in the local taekwondo community, Alora initially experienced carrying the Philippine flag in front of a mammoth crowd back in the closing ceremonies of the Brazil Olympiad last year when she made her debut in the world’s biggest sporting conclave.
The former College of St. Benilde standout knows there will be an added pressure on her SEAG return. But she’s eager to embrace it, saying: “I strive harder being an Olympian. Mas dino-doble ko po ‘yung efforts ko sa training in preparation for SEA Games.
“Ayaw ko naman kasi na marinig sa mga tao na porket SEA Games, hindi na ako bumubuhos pagdating sa ensayo. Siyempre dahil Olympian na ako, mas dapat pagbutihan ko para hindi matalo. Nagti-training ako nang mas mabuti.”
So far, Alora has already hauled five medals in the same number of SEAG meets, winning the coveted gold in 2013 (Naypyidaw, Myanmar), 2011 (Jakarta and Palembang, Indonesia) and 2005 (Manila).
But the proud Laguna native is craving for more.
“Every tournament naman po, may pressure to win. But the competition is not that high though. I’m assuring myself na kaya ko ibigay ang best ko and mag-produce ng medal for the country,” she said.