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Karatekas moving forward

Joaquin Henson (The Philippine Star) - June 15, 2021 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — There were six Filipinos who competed in kumite and two in kata at the World Olympic Karate Qualifying Tournament in Paris last weekend but none found the luck to book a ticket to Tokyo in a finish that Karate Pilipinas Sports Federation president Ricky Lim described as good and bad news.

“Of course, we’re disappointed that we failed to qualify even one despite five athletes sacrificing 2 1/2 months of training in Turkey, Junna (Tsukii) preparing abroad for over a year and our kata competitors going to Paris on their own,” said Lim. “But the bright side is we performed the best ever, better than in the last SEA Games where we won two golds, one silver and nine bronzes. We’re only two years in the Federation so we’re still in the learning stage. Joco Vasquez reached the third round and finished in the top 16 of 49 in men’s kata. Jason Macaalay, Joane Orbon and Jamie Lim won their first matches. Jason beat Omar Laattar of the Netherlands, 2-0 then lost to eventual bronze medalist Azerbaijan’s Firdovsi Farzaliyez, 1-0. Joane defeated Cyprus’ Anthea Stylianou, 6-3 then lost to Hungary’s Aleksandra Ilankovic, 4-2. Junna lost in the Round of 32 to the eventual gold medalist and Jamie beat the 2016 world and two-time European champion Alisa Buchinger of Austria.”

Lim said the team will leave Paris on June 20, the first available flight back to Manila, take a brief rest and regroup for training on July 1. “We’re all excited to move on,” he said. “This was our first experience fighting against the highest level of competition. We’re all coming back to work harder and make adjustments. Jamie, for instance, plans to fight at a lower weight division. We’re gearing for the next SEA Games in November then next year, the Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games in Bangkok in March and the Asian Games in Hangzhou in September. We don’t know if karate will be included in the 2024 Olympic Games but we’re hoping it will so we get another chance to qualify.”

World No. 8 Tsukii drew a bye in the Round of 64 but lost a 2-1 decision to Bulgaria’s Ivet Goranova on a video review. She would’ve clinched an Olympic ticket via the continental quota but Iran’s Rozita Alipour beat her to it. “Junna’s devastated,” said Lim. “I thought some of her points weren’t counted by the judges. But Junna’s tough. She won’t take this sitting down, she’ll be back stronger. Jamie upset the world champion, 3-2, in the first round but in her next fight, she went down on a leg sweep and took a punch to give her opponent, Tunisia’s Chehinez Jemi, three points. It was toe-to-toe before that yet Jamie fought back but ran out of time to lose, 7-2. In women’s kata, Sarah Pangilinan barely missed the cutoff for the second round, finishing fifth of 11. Ivan Agustin and Sharief Afif dropped their first bouts but by slim margins. Ivan lost, 1-0, to Colombia’s Juan Landazuri and Sharief to Portugal’s Felipe Reis, 2-0.”

Lim said the Philippines’ Turkish coach Okay Arpa is optimistic of the future. “We went up against the best of the best,” he said. “The Turkish team stayed in a hotel for a year and used it as a base to compete in different countries despite the pandemic. Coach Okay was offered a higher pay to go to other countries like Peru but stayed with us because he likes our attitude, our potential. This humbling experience is just a start. With continued support from the PSC and POC, we’re moving forward. We know what to do to improve.”

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