AS MANY as six Filipino karate champions are hoping to make it to the Tokyo Olympics in Japan next year.
Of the six, three of them are female champions who have already made their presence felt in this popular Japanese martial art — Joane Orbon (women’s 61kgs), Jamie Lim (women’s +61 kgs) and Junna Tsukii (women’s 50kgs kumite).
Karate Pilipinas Sports Federation, Inc. (KPSFI) president Richard Lim said all six athletes are now deep in training to make it to the Tokyo Olympics.
“Right now, we have six athletes preparing for the pre-qualifying for the Tokyo Olympics. All six of them are training very hard every day even during the pandemic,” said Lim during the 19th “Usapang Sports on Air” by the Tabloids Organization in Philippine Sports (TOPS) via Zoom.
“I’m very optimitics about their chances of making it. One or two will be good. But right now, I’m rooting for the Triple J (Joane, Jamie and Junna),” said Lim 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).
In the men’s division are Alwyn Batican (men’s -67kgs), Ivan Agustin (men’s -75kgs) and Sharief Afif (men’s +75kgs).
Lim, however, said competition in the men’s division will be a little more difficult.
“For the men, it’s very tough. But I’m not losing hope on our athletes because they also have a very chance of making it,” said Lim.
“Both Alwyn and Ivan are newbies and they are really very hungry (to prove themselves). Sharief is also there. He fought the world No. 1 in his weight category and lost by only 1-0. That player will not be there during the qualifying in Paris,” explained Lim.
Lim, who also worked at the AAK Fitness System, said he is just waiting for the go-signal of both the PSC and the Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) for the creation of their own bubble to allow the athletes to resume face-to-face training.
“We are planning to hold our bubble at INSPIRE Sports Academy in Calamba, Laguna. We already spoke to Mr. Hans Sy and PSC Commissioner Ramon Fernandez. It seems it’s going to happen,” said Lim.
“Right now, our players are training online. We have a pool of 76 national ahletes starting from cadet. junors, under 21 and seniors. They train three times a week.”
“The national seniors team and the qualifying teams train separately. I can say our athletes are pretty busy with training that it looks like we didn’t have the pandemic. Rest day is only on Sundays.”
“They (athletes) are doing everything they can to keep at par. In terms of fitness and conditioning, they are in tip-top shape.”
But Lim admitted online training is not enough.
“Online training is not enough. We miss the training with partners, especially the timing, the distancing and reaction. That’s why we are pushing for our own bubble” explained Lim.
Lim also said Orbon is also diligently following a strict training regimen even if she is still in California right now.
“She has her own training program to follow. We believe in her professionalism. She’s been in the Top 6 in the world so she can handle and push herself to the limit. Once the bubble is approved, she will come over to join us.”
The KPSFI head also said they are waiting for the PSC approval for their request for the national athletes to train abroad.
“We submitted a request to PSC for our athletes to train abroad in Istanbul as early as January and February,” said Lim.
“Since training partners are a little bit scarce in the Philippines, we need to have training partners abroad, who are world-class karatekas. Yung training system na ginagawa nila maa-adopt natin and at the same time masusukat na natin yung level natin kung saan tayo.”
He said Orbon and Tsukuii, who is training in Japan with her father, will join them in Istanbul.
“Hopefully, we’ll all be ready in the final Tokyo Olympic qualifying tournament in Paris, France on June 11-13,” added Lim.
Joining Lim and Orbon during the weekly sports session are Wheelchair Basketball Philippines coach Vernon Perea and Philippine Racing Club Inc. (PRCI) racing manager Antonio Alcasid, Jr.