Karate bets shift focus to Olympic qualifiers

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    KARATE chief Ricky Lim said the national team’s Olympic aspirants are skipping a tournament in Turkey next month and instead shift their focus for the world Olympic qualifying tournament set June 11 to 13 in Paris, France.

    “We’re gearing up and going straight to the world Olympic qualifying tournament,” Lim said yesterday, adding the change in plans was due to the unpredictable conditions caused by the pandemic, particularly in Europe.

    He said the athletes are set to leave for overseas training in Turkey instead in mid-March.

    The karatekas, majority of them currently training at the Inspire Academy in Calamba, Laguna, were supposed to see action in the Karate Premier League event set March 12-14 in Istanbul, Turkey, according to the Karate Pilipinas Sports Foundation, Inc. president.

    “But our karatekas have not been competing for over a year and they will be up against elite athletes so this might expose them to potential injuries,” said Lim, “and we don’t want them to get demoralized in the event they lose.

    “We will focus on our tactics and strategy against the potential rivals of our athletes at the worlds,” he said, adding that Okay Arpa, the national team coach, rejoined the karatekas at the Inspire Academy last Feb. 19 after arriving in Manila from Turkey on Feb. 13.

    “Instead of being idle in Turkey, we thought it best for coach Okay to come back to the Philippines so he can closely supervise the workouts of our Olympic hopefuls,” Lim explained.

    Lim said he added Matthew Manantan to the karate training bubble as an additional sparring partner for 30th Southeast Asian Games gold medalist Jamie Lim, Ivan Christopher Agustin, Jason Macaalay and coach Sonny Montalvo, who have been at the facility since Jan. 16.

    He said he had tapped the veteran Montalvo, a silver medalist in the men’s minus 55-kg division in the 30th SEA Games, as the team’s strength and conditioning coach “so he can give way to the younger athletes.”

    As for overseas-based karatekas Junna Tsukii and Joane Orbon, who are training in Japan and the US, respectively, they are set to join the rest of the national team once they transfer to their training camp in Turkey.