Tsukii dominates world-ranked foe for Serbia karate title
By beating a world-ranked fighter in a top-rated tournament, Junna Tsukii just confirmed that she has the skill to hurdle an Olympic qualifying meet.
“It’s just an invitational [tournament], but she beat the [world] No. 6 [fighter] in the Olympic rankings,’’ said Richard Lim, president of Karate Pilipinas Sports Federation.
Tsukii showed a preview of her ability to clinch a spot in next year’s Tokyo Olympics with a kumite gold medal in the Serbia Invitational Championships on Sunday after beating Brazilian Valeria Kumikazi.
According to Lim, the tournament has no significant implication on Tsukii’s Olympic bid, but the mere fact that all the top fighters came to compete in Arandjelovac, Serbia, meant the 29-year-old can take on all comers.
Majority of the participants came from Switzerland, Slovakia, Croatia, Brazil and the host country.
The Filipino-Japanese karateka is one of six aspirants that the local karate federation feels could make it to Tokyo for the July 23-Aug. 8 Games.
“They’re really putting their hearts and souls into their goal and it showed with the way our karatekas are performing,’’ Lim said.
Aside from Tsukii, Jamie Lim and Joane Orbon are bound for the Olympic qualifying tournament in Paris in June next year as well as Sharief Afif, Ivan Agustin and Awyn Batican.
The six Filipino bets would need to medal in Paris to book a ticket to Tokyo, which will host the ancient Japanese combat sport for the first time in the Olympics.
“The top three finishers in each category will go straight to the Olympics,’’ Lim said, adding that Tsukii will remain in Serbia to continue training.
The Southeast Asian Games gold medalist in the women’s -50 kilogram kumite has been training in Japan since the COVID-19 pandemic began early this year and will only be able to join her national teammates in Manila once government restrictions on contact sports are lifted.
Tsukii moved up to a heavier weight class with only three divisions for women (-55kg, +61kg, -61kg) to be played in the Olympics, while the men’s division will feature fighters weighing -67kg, -75kg and +75kg. INQ