Junna Tsukii gamely took pictures with fans the morning after she won the gold medal in the kumite individual female -50kg in the 30th Southeast Asian Games’ karate competitions at the World Trade Center in Pasay City.
Still, the 28-year-old karateka continues to carry her burdens.
On Saturday night, just hours after she struck gold, Tsukii took to Facebook to reveal a conflict between her and the Philippine karate team’s head coach, accusing him of bullying and not recognizing her achievement.
In that post, Tsukii said that she has been ignored by their coach since she returned from a tournament in Madrid.
The 2018 Asian Games bronze medalist then revealed to reporters what made her reach her boiling point, leading to the post.
“We had meeting after dinner, and he celebrated [with] all who competed yesterday. But he [did] not see my face. And he never… For example, for kata female player, ‘Oh, you’re still young, you got future. Even (if) you got bronze, it’s very good.’ Like that. For other players, ‘I saw you grow up since before, so your effort is working.’ Like that,” she said.
“But he never say my name, that’s why I’m so sad, because of course I got medal also for my team. Not only country, not only my family, all of who supported me,” the Filipino-Japanese fighter recounted.
Tsukii added that she actually asked her coach straight up why was such but she only got an unpleasant response.
“I asked him, ‘Sensei, you didn’t say my name, because also I played today.’ And he said what I wrote in there,” she shared.
“He said, ‘You’re not live in my, also you died so I can’t see you.’ I talked to him, ‘Sensei, you’re coach of team, and me also. I’m team in the Philippines so you have contract about coach of the team, not personal coach.’ But he say, ‘No, I’m not your coach, and we no need you.”
She did not mention a name in her post, but the team’s listed coach is Okay Arpa, a former world champion who took over the team last June. Tsukii said she did not do so since she still gives utmost respect to the Turkish mentor.
“I’m not writing his name, because still I respect him,” she said. “But I won’t change the situation. This situation is not only of me, maybe some people have like the same situation, so I hope everything will change to a good situation.”
Asked how painful was it for her, Tsukii was reduced to tears before collecting herself to respond.
“Yesterday actually I can’t sleep,” she said.
“I feel, he bullied me because I’m Japanese or I’m not pure Filipino, I don’t know. But I can’t be happy one-hundred percent, because some people is not happy for my work. It’s not easy to get gold here.
“SEA Games karate event is like Asian Games or world event because they have world standard. I’m sure our opponent is very strong like world standard. I prepared so much for this tournament, and I finally got gold. I’m so tired,” she explained.
Still, despite all this, Tsukii said she isn’t going to stop trying to reach her dream of making it to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
“Yes, because my dream is not only for me. Maybe if I can make way, good way, even when I stop playing maybe many people can work. Maybe many people will follow or more people do a great job than me,” she said.
“I’m just one step. After me, next generation will do more and go up.”
Karate Pilipinas Sports Federation president Richard Lim was sought for comment, but said that he has yet to hear the sides of both Tsukii and Arpa as he only learned about the former’s grievances on Sunday morning.