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Emma Malabuyo eyes Asian Championships for potential final shot at Paris Olympics

(Michael Gallagher/Daily Bruin)

By Aaron Doyle

April 28, 2024 11:25 a.m.

This post was updated April 30 at 9:16 p.m.

After securing an Olympic alternate spot for the United States at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, Emma Malabuyo’s eyes were set on her collegiate career in Westwood.

But an opportunity to represent the Philippines changed the junior’s mind and motivated her to give it another shot.

“It is really such a huge honor doing it for everybody in the Philippines,” Malabuyo said. “Anybody who is Filipino, they treat me like family, and they show so much love and support. I want to just do it for them.”

Malabuyo’s path to the Paris Olympics didn’t begin this year, however. The first step to qualifying started last year at the 2023 Asian Championships, where Malabuyo won a historic silver medal on floor – earning the Philippines its first-ever silver medal in the event at the Asian Championships.

She fell short of qualifying for the 2023 World Championships, where teammate and fellow NCAA gymnast Aleah Finnegan clinched the spot, and nearly two weeks ago, Malabuyo finished in 10th on floor at the Doha World Cup, failing to clinch qualification points and a ticket to the Olympics.

Though Malabuyo has one more shot at qualifying for the Olympics by competing in the all-around at the Asian Championships, the path through the World Cup series is over.

“After I didn’t get the Olympic spot, I went to up to my parents, and I was like, ‘Oh my god, I failed,’” Malabuyo said. “My mom was like, ‘No, you define your own success, like, who else could balance college, and doing college gymnastics and elite gymnastics, and traveling. Doing all this, that is incredible.’”

While competing in the all-around at the Asian Championships will give Malabuyo a final chance to qualify for Paris, her decision is still up in the air.

Malabuyo hasn’t competed in the all-around since she began representing the Philippines in 2023, but she said she is feeling confident.

“I’m actually looking forward to competing at Asian Championships. I’m just taking it day by day, so I don’t know if I’m going to do all-around, but my goal is to definitely medal on floor,” Malabuyo said. “I’m actually still doing pretty good, and I am very determined and ambitious and ready to get back out there.”

If Malabuyo misses her ticket to the Olympics, her elite season will be over.

The junior has one more year of collegiate gymnastics ahead of her. From competing for the United States to now representing the Philippines, Malabuyo said she is ready to go out with a bang.

“There is just so many fun skills that I want to try and clean up those routines, but I’m so fired up for next season,” Malabuyo said. “We have a lot of potential and a lot of talent on this team, and we are ready, and we are hungry.”

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Aaron Doyle
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