Tsukii bags gold in Premier League

Published May 3, 2021, 11:04 AM

by Waylon Galvez

The bid of Junna Tsukii to earn a spot in the Tokyo Olympics got a big boost as she bagged a gold medal in the World Karate Federation (WKF) Premier League Sunday, May 2 (Monday in Manila) in Lisbon, Portugal.

The win of the Filipino-Japanese karatedo star – gold medal winner in the last Southeast Asian Games here – highlighted her preparation for next month’s Olympic Qualifying Tournament (OQT) in Paris, France.

“Look at my first gold medal on the world caliber stage,” Tsukii said in a post on her Facebook account. Prior to her gold medal win, her best finish in the Premier League was a bronze medal last year.

The 29-year-old Tsukii, who earned a bronze medal in the 2018 Asian Games, defeated Moldir Zhangbyrbay of Kazakhstan 2-0 in the gold medal match of the women’s kumite -50kg category.

Another strong sign of her readiness for the OQT was when she scored 2-0 win opposite two-time world champion Alexandra Recchia of France in the semifinal round last Saturday.

Last March, Tsukii also ruled the Golden Belt Karate tournament in Serbia, where she has been training the past months after spending her training camp in Japan a year ago.

The qualifying event in Paris is set June 11 to 14, and Tsukii is expected to join the national team training camp in Istanbul, Turkey. The national team will fly to Paris on June 7.

Karate Pilipinas Sports Federation Inc. president Richard “Ricky” Lim said the achievement of Tsukii is an indication of her strong chance to earn a spot in the Tokyo Olympics.

“We’re so proud of her. It’s a dream for her to finally win in the Premier League,” said Lim. “She’s been competing in the tournament for two years already, and her best finish was a bronze medal. Finally she’s a gold medal winner.”

“I can see her qualify in the Tokyo Olympics. With this kind of game she now has… no doubt for me, I can see her winning in the OQT. If she qualifies, for me Junna also has a strong chance for a podium finish in Japan.”

The format in the OQT is participants will have to go through the preliminary matches. The best finishers per pool will advance in the semifinal round, which is round robin elimination.

Only the top three athletes will earn Tokyo Olympic berths.

So far, only five spots are assured per category in the Games through ranking of World Karatedo Federation (WKF). The three other spots (sixth to eighth) will be determined in the OQT, while the remaining two will come from the continental qualifying meets (one) and a wild card entry (one).

Lim said that overall, there will only be 10 participants per category in both the men’s and women’s divisions in the Tokyo Olympics.

Other national team members set to see action in the OQT in Paris are Jamie Lim, Joanne Orbon, who has trained in the US, Ivan Agustin, Shariff Afif, Alwyn Batican and Jason Macaalay.