THE sky is the limit as far as two-time Southeast Asian Games gold medalist and karate champion James de los Santos is concerned.
De los Santos, now the world No. 1 in virtual karate competitions, vowed to keep up the good work and continue to make the country proud whenever he gets the chance.
On Friday, he did just that.
De los Santos captured his 18th gold medal by sweeping all his three opponents in the Pune Open India Karate eTournament recently.
De los Santos defeated the United States in the quarterfinals, Switzerland in the semifinals and Brazil in the finals, all by decisive 3-0 scores.
But there’s no stopping De los Santos.
“Now that I’m world No.1, I know I have to continue to get better and maintain the top spot as long as possible,” said De los Santos during the 18th “Usapang Sports on Air” by the Tabloids Organization in Philippine Sports (TOPS) via Zoom last Thursday.
“To become a better athlete, I always have to compete with myself. I still do focus on my competitors but i also have to focus on myself because I would score 23 or 24, then now I’m scoring 25,” added De los Santos during the weekly public service program sponsored by the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC), Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) and Games and Amusements Board (GAB).
“And then lately also after competing in the Katana Intercontinental League, I scored at 26, I can say that I was the first e-Kata player to ever score over at 26 in all of the virtual tournaments that i joined. It’s a motivation.”
The 30-year-old Filipino champion admitted he still hopes to represent the country once again.
“Right now, I can say that I loved representing the country. But it’s not my decision right now. The best to ask regarding that would be the NSA (Karate Pilipinas) itself because right now, I’m just competing for the love of the sport. I really love the country and I’m proud being in the service to the Philippines. That is really what motivates me right now,” explained De los Santos.
Added De los Santos: “What happened during the SEA Games last year was very unfortunate for me given the fact that it is always one of my biggest dreams to compete in the SEA Games that will be hosted in the Philippines. I waited 14 years for that but unfortunately, i was really not chosen.”
“To this day, I really have no clue ( why I was not chosen). As of now, that door last year was closed, but I could say that there is a new door (virtual tournaments) opening for me.”
He credited his Japanese kata coach Masa Saito and several other individuals for his success.
“We really trained and worked hard at it by joining a lot of these tournaments that will continue adding points to the world rankings for e-kata. I also learn a lot from Kazuo Saito and Nozomi Yamanaka amd MKKPI chief instructor Gierby Halog Lacorte and my tito Adonis Colonia.” De los Santos was also thankful for the support of the private sector
“With the help of my family and my sponsor, Kaffea. I continue to compete in these tournaments thru my own efforts,” he said
“I’m also glad that a couple of other karatekas, like Fatima A-Isha Lim Hamsain. She also joins these tournaments with the support of her club and their family. That”s what I am focusing right now because I really love karate and it’s something I can’t let go of being that for such a long time.”
It was not all De los Santos, however.
Two of De los Santos’ students from MKKPI — Fatima A-Isha Lim Hamsain and Christina Colonia – bagged the bronze medals in the U-15 female eKata division.
On the possibility that virtual tournaments will continue even after the pandemic, De los Santos believes it will do so.
“Even when the pandemic is over, I think virtual competitions will continue to thrive even with actual competitions are back,” he said..
“Virtual tournament is actually an opportunity for karate practitioners, who can’t afford to travel to compete internationally. It is a good experience because it makes competing a lot more easier for athletes around the world.”