MANILA, Philippines -- Filipino-Japanese karateka Junna Tsukii is among the athletes to watch when the 2021 World Karate Championships unfold next month in Dubai.
Karate Pilipinas president Richard Lim says that while he does not want to add more pressure on the 30-year-old Tsukii, it cannot be denied that she has emerged as a top contender in her division.
Tsukii, a gold medalist in the 2019 Southeast Asian Games, will compete in the -50kg kumite event.
"We all know naman that Junna has been competing almost every month. So, she has the experience, the mental awareness, control of the game. She has everything already," Lim said during the Philippine Sportswriters Association (PSA) Forum on Tuesday.
Tsukii has regularly competed in the Karate Premier League this year, winning gold medals in Portugal and Egypt. Her ranking in her division has risen to as high as No. 2 after those triumphs.
Lim said Tsukii's experiences in the Premier League has made her a more mature athlete.
"'Yung dating nakikita naming problema niya, is now solved. I mean, she controls the game very much now," he said.
"So, I would say that chances of her winning in this coming world championships are very high," he said. "Everybody's looking at her, everybody's expecting her to win."
"We don't give her that pressure. But a lot of other countries are looking at her and watching her. Because, they know that she is the girl to beat in that category. So we're really proud of her."
Tsukii is currently training in Serbia, with the restrictions brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic preventing her from joining the national team's training camp in Baguio.
Lim assured that her training is going well and she is still being monitored by the national team coaches including Turkish mentor Okay Arpa.
In a recent Facebook post, Tsukii also said that her preparations for the world championships "are good."
"I'm happy to train with the great champions," she said. "It's about a month left... I am aiming for victory."
Tsukii will be joined in the Philippine team by fellow SEA Games gold medalist Jamie Lim as well as kata athletes Sarah Pangilinan and Joco Vasquez. The world championships will take place on November 16-21, with the Philippine team leaving for Dubai on November 11.
The world championships will be held in a biosecure bubble.