With many competitors still looking for qualifying slots, Filipino-Japanese karateka Junna Tsukii gained a fighting chance to make it to the Tokyo Olympics.
Tsukii’s opportunity to make it to the quadrennial meet improved after she fought her way to the gold medal last Sunday in the female kumite -50kg division of the 2021 Karate 1 Premier League in Lisbon, Portugal.
The 29-year-old Tsukii, who is seeking qualification in the higher weight class of -55kgs, used the Waza-Ari technique in stopping Kazakhstan’s Moldir Zhangbyrbay, 2-0, in the finals.
The 5’1” Tsukii is seeking qualification in another weight category because the qualifiers for the -50 kgs, have been integrated into the -55kg class.
Tsukii currently sits at no. 15 in the World Karatedo Federation’s Olympic rankings with 3787.5 points.
At the same time, she is at no. five in the Asian Karatedo Federation rankings and no. 10 in the WKF rankings with 3457.5 points.
For now, the top four athletes in the world rankings will gain automatic Olympic berths.
And Tsukii needs to make it to the top 4 in the world rankings to earn a seat. Her last chance to make it to Tokyo will come when Tsukii joins the Olympic qualifiers in Paris, France in June.
While in Paris, Tsukii will be in the company of Jamie Lim, Joan Orbon, Sharif Afif, Alwyn Batican and Ivan Agustin, who went into training under a bubble in Calamba, Laguna and in Turkey.
There are 80 qualifying spots for karate at the 2020 Summer Olympics.
And a country can have no more than eight athletes who can qualify.
It was Tsukii’s first-ever gold medal in the Karate 1-Premier League, according to the tournament’s officials website.
A successful use of the “Waza-ari,” or two-point score via “Mawashi geri,” or roundhouse kick, allowed Tsukii to claim the bout.
The points that she got will allow Tsukii to move up in the Olympic rankings in the -55kg class.
None of the participants gained Olympic qualification that day and among those who are still in the hunt for slots are big names in the sport like Anzhelika Terliuga of Ukraine, Steven Dacosta, Jovana Prekovic and Li Gong, who all earned gold medals in their respective divisions.
Terliuga, who could be Tsukii’s toughest foe since she is looking to qualify in the -55 kg female kumite event, too, claimed a convincing 6-0 victory over Egypt’s Yasmin Attia.
The 29-year-old Terliuga scored two impressive “Ippon” or three-point technique by “Ura Mawashi geri” or hook kick to win the bout and her first gold of the season.
Tsukii made it to the second round after a bye, before stamping her class against Daniella Gallego, 10-2, in pool 3.
Tsukii then upset world no. 3 Sara Bahmanyar of Iran, 2-1, to move up to the quarterfinals, where she first drew with world no. 6 Radwa Sayed of Egypt, 1-all, before reaching the semifinals on a 3-2 victory.
Tsukii then eased out world no. 8 Alexandra Recchia of France, 2-0, to make it to the finals.
So far, Serap Aropoglu of Turkey, who is no. 1 in Asia, is sure to earn an Olympic berth, alongside Miyo Miyahara of Japan.
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