Karate: Pinay Junna Tsukii’s hunt for Olympic berth to begin at Istanbul league

Dennis Gasgonia, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 25 2021 07:32 PM

Teammates train in Turkey for Olympic qualifiers

Japan-based Filipina karateka Junna Tsukii will be heading to Istanbul, Turkey to boost her chances of qualifying for the Tokyo Olympics, the sport's national governing body said Thursday.

The 2019 Southeast Asian Games gold medalist will compete in the top-notch Premier League tournament beginning March 11 with hopes of making it to the top 4 in the Olympic ranking system and gain a berth at the Tokyo Games.

Tsukii, 29, is currently tied for 10th with Bakhriniso Babaeva of Uzbekistan with 3,712.50 points in the World Karate Federation rankings, which means Tsukii has a lot of ground to cover.

The top 4 are led by Serap Ozcelik Arapoglu of Turkey (11,542.50 points), Miho Miyahara of Japan (6,300), Bettina Plank of Austria (5,377.50), and Sara Bahmanyar of Iran (5,272.50).

But Richard Lim, president of Karate Pilipinas, said Tsukii has a good chance at the Premier League, because she has been training nonstop in Japan even while at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"She's training in Japan with our former coach, 'yung father niya," said Lim. "We allowed her to compete because she has been training there with partners ever since." 

Meanwhile, other karate national team members are training at Inspire Sports Academy in Calamba city, Laguna, to regain their form.

Lim said they initially planned on sending the team to the Premier League, but the lockdown has hampered their preparations.

"We were online training for over a year. They just started with face-to-face training but of course after being stuck in online training for almost a year without sparring partners, their distancing and reaction time were affected," Lim said.

Instead of fielding the group in the Premier League, they will train intensively also in Istanbul this March, part of preparations for the Olympic qualifiers in Paris. 

"They will be staying there until March 15, then come back to Manila. Then they will leave for Paris on June 1 for the Olympic qualifying," said Lim.

National team members included for the training camp in Turkey are SEA Games gold medalist Jamie Lim, Sharif Afif, Alwyn Batican and Ivan Agustin.

Another karateka, US-based Filipina Joan Orbon will fly directly to Turkey to meet the team together with Tsukii in their training camp.

"Orbon, we did not let her join the bubble training anymore because of the quarantine requirement. We will just meet her in Istanbul," said Richard Lim.

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