IN her first overseas competition since the COVID-19 pandemic, 30th Southeast Asian Games gold medalist and Olympic hopeful Junna Tsukii ruled the minus 55-kilogram division of a recent invitational meet in Serbia, according to karate chief Ricky Lim.
The Tokyo-based Tsukii, who bagged a gold medal in the minus 50-kg division of the SEA Games, topped the six-man round robin series with four wins and one draw, highlighted by an impressive 6-0 triumph over No. 6 world-ranked Valeriana Kumizaki of Brazil.
Kumizaki was a silver medalist in the women’s minus 55-kg division in the 2016 world karate championship in Linz, Austria and a gold medalist in the 2017 World Games in Wroclaw, Poland.
“Although it was not an Olympic ranking qualifying tournament, the competition drew some of the top karatekas in the world and was by invitation only,” said Lim, the Karate Pilipinas Sports Foundation Inc. president.
“It was a simulation of an Olympic qualifying competition, so it was round-robin style with the accumulation of the overall results deciding the winner in each category. Most of the entries were from the Serbian national team,” he added.
“Other athletes from Switzerland, Slovak Republic and Croatia were also supposed to come over but because of the spike in COVID-19 cases in Europe so they weren’t able to join the event,” Lim said.
He said that Tsukii had to stay in Serbia for month just to be able to see action in the competition since winning her first gold in the county in international play last year. She had won bronze medals in the 2017 Malaysia SEA Games and 2018 Asian Games in Jakarta, Indonesia.
The Filipino-Japanese karateka, currently ranked No. 15 in the Olympic qualifying ratings, will also see action in the rescheduled world Olympic qualifying tournament in Paris, France in June 2021.
Lim said that Tsukii, who has been training in Japan, has expressed her willingness to rejoin her national teammates and fellow Olympic hopefuls once the Inter-Agency Task Force gives the go-signal for them to go back to the gym to resume their actual training.