THREE of eight Filipinos will climb the mat on Friday in the World Karate Olympic Qualification Tournament in Paris, hoping to secure tickets to Tokyo where karate is making its Olympic debut.
Junna Tsukii (women -55 kgs), Jayson Ramil Macaalay (men -67 kgs) and Sarah Pangilinan (women’s kata) will be first up for Team Philippines in the qualifier set at a bubble facility at the AccorHotels Arena Sports Hall in the French Capital.
The Filipinos’ Turkish coach, Okay Arpa, believes his wards have strong chances of making it to the Olympics. But the challenge will be tough.
“Everybody has a chance because we trained well physically and mentally in the Calamba bubble for 45 days and flew to Istanbul where we trained for two-and-half months training with Turkish and Mexican teams,” Arpa said.
“But it’s not going to be easy,” Arpa said. “The best athletes from 99 countries are here.”
More than 500 athletes from 99 countries are gathered in Paris, each of them hoping to become one of only 24 athletes—top three in three weight divisions in men and women kumite and also the top three in men and women kata—who will qualify for the Tokyo Olympics.
John Enrico Vasquez competes on Saturday in men’s kata and so will Joane Orbon (women -61 kgs) and Ivan Agustin (men -75 kgs) in kumite.
Jamie Lim (women +61 kgs) and Sharief Afif (men +75 kgs) fight in Sunday’s kumite events.
The kumite pairings will be announced on Friday morning (Manila time).
“I’m good and very excited. I can fight alongside my fellow Filipinos now,” the Filipino-Japanese Tsukii said.
Tsukii flew in from Serbia—where she trained in the last few months—to Paris and surprised Karate Pilipinas President Richard Lim with a more toned physique.
“She’s macho now,” Lim said. “Tsukii is ready to fight anyone anytime.”