Tsukii, Lim lead national squad in karate worlds


JUNNA TSUKII banners a compact four-athlete Philippine karate team bound for the world championships in Dubai next month.

Tsukii, currently ranked No. 2 in the world, will be joined by fellow 2019 Southeast Asian Games gold medalist Jamie Lim and kata stalwarts Sarah Pangilinan and Joco Vasquez in the November 16 to 21 worlds at the Hamdam Sports Complex in the United Arab Emirates capital.

The 30-year-old Tsukii will see action in her pet women’s kumite 50-kg class where she won gold in the SEA Games two years ago and a bronze in the 2018 Asian Games.

Lim goes down into the -61 division also of kumite after previously campaigning in the +61 category, while Pangilinan and Vazquez compete in the women’s and men’s individual kata.

All four are coming off the Tokyo Olympics qualifier in Paris, France, in June.

Due to the pandemic and the subsequent lack of funds, Karate Pilipinas Sports Federation president Richard Lim said the national team is sending only four athletes who, he said, have a strong chance of winning.

“We really try to send who we feel has the greater chance of winning for now, but eventually we have to expose everybody else,” Lim told the online Philippine Sportswriters Association Forum on Tuesday. “This is the highest form of championship, so we’re really sending the best.”

Lim and Vasquez are currently training with 13 other national athletes in a bubble set-up in Baguio City under Turkish Coach Okay Arpa, while Tsukii and Pangilinan are training in Serbia and Japan, respectively.

Training in a high altitude camp initially gave Lim, daughter of Philippine Basketball Association great Samboy Lim, a hard time adjusting—but eventually got used to it.

“High altitude training is new to us, but it will work to our advantage. If we can train here (Baguio City), we can train downstairs for sure,” she told the session presented by San Miguel Corp., Milo, Amelie Hotel Manila, Braska Restaurant, and the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. “Training is back to normal and we got back into shape quicker than expected. The vibe is good and the training is good.”

The team leaves on November 11 for the Dubai tournament that will be held in a bubble. Up next for the national team is the Asian Karate Championships in Almaty, Kazakhstan in December, followed by the Southeast Asian Games in Vietnam in May and the Asian Games in Hangzhou in September.

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