Fil-Japanese karateka keeps focus on Tokyo

    FILIPINO-JAPANESE Southeast Asian Games gold medalist Junna Tsukii will see action in four more Olympic qualifiers in her all-out bid to compete in Tokyo Olympic Games in July.

    “I have four more Olympic qualifiers and I want to secure one of the two slots for Asia,” Tsukii, who ruled the women’s 55-kilogram division in the last 30th SEA Games, said yesterday.

    Tsukii arrived early this week fresh from her bronze-medal finish in the Karate Premier League 1 tournament, an Olympic ranking tournament, in Paris, France over the weekend.

    “My next (Olympic ranking competition) will be at the next Karate Premier League 1 tournament from Feb. 14 to 16 in Dubai,” said Tsukii, 29, a brand ambassador of Ajinomoto Phils that launched its health drink, Amino Vital, locally yesterday at the Pretty Huge Obstacle Course in Taguig.

    The karateka, who was born in the Saitama prefecture and whose mother hails from Sta. Rosa, Laguna, is in town to compete in the National Open karate championships organized by Karate Pilipinas this weekend.

    Ranked No. 15 overall in the Olympic world rankings of the World Karate Federation with 3,487.5 ranking points, Tsukii is currently ranked No. 4 in Asia in her weight class.

    She is virtually No. 3 since Asia’s top-ranked karateka in the weight class is Japan’s Kiyomi Mihara, the world No. 5 with 5,325 points, who is guaranteed a slot since she comes from the host country.

    The current No. 2 Asian in the weight division is Iran’s Sarah Bahnmayar, the world No. 5 with 5,047.5 points, while the No. 3 is China’s Ranran Li, world No. 12, with 3,900 points.

    The top two  karatekas from Asia after the Olympic ranking and qualifying tournaments at the end of April will secure tickets to the Tokyo Olympics.

    Tsukii is within striking distance of Li and hopes to gain ground beginning with the Dubai meet and three other remaining legs of the Karate Premier League 1 Series.

    Backed by the Philippine Sports Commission, the petite and pretty athlete will also see action in Salzburg, Austria from Feb. 28 to March 1; Rabat, Morocco (March 13-15) and Madrid, Spain, headquarters of the WKF, (April 17-19).

    Her last chance to claim a seat in the Tokyo Games where the Japanese combat was born will be during the Olympic qualifying tournament set May 8-10 in Paris, France.

    The top three finishers in each weight class – the gold and silver medalist and the winner of the knockout match between the two losing finalists – will earn spots in the Olympic karate tournament.

    “But I don’t want to go through the Olympic qualifying tournament,” Tsukii insisted. “I want to get one of those two (Asian) spots through the ranking tournaments to compete for the Philippines in Tokyo.”