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Karate word war escalates: Tsukii hurt by ‘selfish’ label, coach says athlete playing for herself

/ 04:44 PM December 08, 2019

Philippines’ Junna Tsukii (red) celebrates after defeating Vietnam’s Dinh Thi Huong (blue) to claim the gold medal of the women’s Karatedo-50 kg of the 30th South East Asian Games 2019. INQUIRER PHOTO/ Sherwin Vardeleon

MANILA, Philippines–All Junna Tsukii wanted was to be as ready as she could be for her swan song.

But that was where cracks began to show in her relationship with her coach.

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On Sunday, those cracks turned into a gulf.

Tsukii doubled down on her account about getting bullied by her coach, who she said invalidated her gold medal triumph in the -50-kilogram women’s kumite event of karate.

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On her social post and during interviews, Tsukii did not name the coach. But the karate federation lists Turkish former world champion Okay Arpa as its head coach.

And Arpa virtually admitted to being alluded to when he fired back at the 28-year-old Filipino-Japanese.

“I am strict to everyone,” Arpa told the Inquirer. “I tell her to come here Dec. 3 and she comes Dec. 5, 6. You play for the SEA Games, you play for country, not personality.”

Arpa has drawn a lot of ire on social media after Tsukii made her post public. Commenters egged Tsukii to not mind the coach because he is “a foreigner anyway.”

“People don’t know about whole situation,” Arpa said. “I am not born here but in my heart I’m Filipino. I work 24 hours, seven days a week for the Philippines.”

Tsukii said the problems started when she wanted to fly to Madrid to help her earn Olympic qualifying points.

“He didn’t allow me to go to Madrid. He said the Federation, the (Philippine Sports Commission) said so,” said Tsukii. “So I asked the Federation and the PSC. The federation gave me permission.”

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Tsukii thus saw action in the World Karate Federation Premier League to shore up her chances of gaining a slot in the Olympics in Tokyo next year.“Before I left for Madrid, he started bullying me,” said Tsukii. “After I came back here, going to the SEA Games, he never talked to me, never looked at my face.”

I spend my money on my competitions. I don’t buy a car, I don’t buy a house, buy candies or something. No. I spend it all to be strong,” she said. “But he still says I’m selfish.”

Arpa said he is focused on the current SEA Games and will air his side after the biennial meet.

“It’s maybe not the correct time,” he said. “Maybe because there’s a SEA Games push. But really, I want to talk.”

Teary-eyed, Tsukii admitted keeping all of this to herself, as she fears her coach would also go after her teammates.

“I don’t want to risk my teammates, that’s also why I don’t tell the names of the teammates who worry (about me),” she revealed. “He might attack the others that’s why I kept quiet.”“I think it’s very important [to bring this out in the open] … we’re also people. We have minds, we have hearts,” she said.

“Even if we look strong, over here,” she added, pointing at her heart, “we are just like [other] people.” INQ

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