By Maria Romina Austria

Emma Malabuyo (Instagram)

MANILA – It was the most precious bronze medal of Emma Malabuyo’s gymnastics career — enough to book her a Paris Olympics slot.

The 21-year-old Filipino-American was third overall in the individual all-around event of the Women’s Artistic Gymnastics Asian Championships in Tashkent, Uzbekistan on Friday.

“I’m just so overwhelmed. I’m speechless. I think I’m still shaking just hearing the news. And I’m still like, ‘Is it real?’ Like, I still can’t believe it just because it’s been such a long and arduous path to get here,” Malabuyo told Olympics.com. “I’m in shock and I can’t believe it.”

China’s Hu Jiafei (50.699 points) and Qin Xinyi (50.566) placed 1-2. Malabuyo amassed 50.398.

Teammate and fellow Oympian LeVi Jung-Ruivivar was sixth (49.166).

Malabuyo’s official Olympic slot came just a little over a month after she fell short in the FIG Artistic Gymnastics World Cup Series in Doha, Qatar, where she failed to land within the top two.

She remembered crying three days straight and losing faith that she’ll achieve her dream as a Team Philippines member.

“I was honestly super heartbroken. I pulled all-nighters because I just was so heartbroken and I couldn’t believe it. I was really doubting myself,” she recalled.

Among the first to congratulate Malabuyo was her former school in the United States, the University of California, Los Angeles.

“We are so proud of our 2024 #UCLAOlympian!” UCLA Gymnastics wrote on Facebook.

“Another day, another qualifier! Extremely proud moment for the country as Emma Malabuyo qualifies for the 2024 Paris Olympics,” the Philippine Olympic Committee posted.

“Ahhhh so happy,” Ruivivar wrote on her Instagram stories to accompany Malabuyo’s photo.

The other Filipinos going to the July 26 to Aug. 11 Summer Games, aside from Malabuyo and Ruivivar, are their fellow gymnasts Carlos Yulo and Aleah Finnegan; world No. 2 pole vaulter Ernest John Obiena; boxers Eumir Felix Marcial, Nesthy Petecio and Aira Villegas; weightlifters Vanessa Sarno, Erleen Ann Ando and John Febuar Ceniza; rower Joanie Delgaco; and fencer Sam Catantan.

Yulo, meanwhile, took home four golds from Uzbekistan – vault, parallel bars, individual all-around and floor exercise.

Born in California to Filipino parents, Malabuyo was a member of the US national team from 2016 to 2019 and in 2021 where she was an alternate in the Tokyo Olympics.

In 2023, she decided to represent the Philippines.

“Just having that support from my family and representing the Philippines just means so much to me,” she said in a previous interview. “I think also the representation of my culture, that really mattered a lot to me.” (PNA)