Junna Tsukii: ‘Best still to come’ in Olympic qualifiers

Ariel Ian Clarito

READY. Junna Tsukii rules a tune-up competition in Serbia.

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Philippine karate star Junna Tsukii thinks she’s better prepared for one final push in 2021 to make it to the Olympics

Laser-focused on her goal to compete in the Tokyo Olympics, Junna Tsukii has been doing everything she can to achieve it.

As the country’s brightest hope for an automatic spot in karate – which is set to debut as an Olympic sport in Tokyo – Tsukii had been training rigorously in Japan since March even after all the Olympic qualifying tournaments were shelved due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

So when she received an invitation to fly early in November to Serbia, the Filipino-Japanese grabbed the opportunity to train with some of the top karate practitioners in the world. 

After spending 36 days of high intensity training, Tsukii leaves camp confident she has become better prepared for one final push in 2021 to make it to the Olympics. 

Tsukii is currently 10th in the World Karate Federation (WKF) rankings in the women’s -50 kg kumite. However, for the Tokyo Olympics, her weight division will be merged with the -55 kg category, so Tsukii will be facing bigger and heavier competition in the qualifiers. 

“I have improved my physical program to help me fight in a heavier category. I also paid close attention to my food intake and my mental state,” Tsukii told Rappler. 

“I am happy to see my achievements in Serbia, but this is just my preparation for next year. My best is still to come next year.”

Proof of her readiness for the Tokyo Olympic qualifiers was when she won a tune-up karate competition in Arandelovac, Serbia.

Tsukii, who bagged the gold in the 2019 Southeast Games and a bronze in the 2018 Asian Games, fought 5 times in the round-robin competition which also featured some of her training partners. 

She blanked her first 4 opponents in the tournament, winning with a score of 6-0 in her first fight. 

Tsukii then picked up 3 more wins with scores of 8-0, 3-0, and 3-0. She drew her final match which ended with a score of 1-1, but emerged champion in the overall result.

“I am going into next year in the best condition,” said Tsukii, reflecting on the things she picked up from her training camp in Serbia.

“The training in Serbia was very hard, but everyday was fulfilling and I had a fun time. I was really able to level up my game.” – Rappler.com