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Midlife Halftime: Tsukii, Lim face best of the best in World Championships

Southeast Asian Games gold medalists Junna Tsukii and Jamie Lim will be fighting the top karatekas on the planet when they compete in the WKF Senior World Championships 2021’s kumite competion which is set to take place on November 16-21 at the Hamdam Sports Complex in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

The path to becoming a world champion will be tough, something no karateka from the Philippines has accomplished. The best finish that the Philippines ever had in the world championship was in 1994 when Enrique Azarcon bagged the bronze in the male kumite -60 kg division.

The brightest chance to end the country’s 27-year medal drought and perhaps even better Azarcon’s bronze finish rest on the shoulders of Tsukii.

2018-asian-games-karate-juuna-tsukii Midlife Halftime: Tsukii, Lim face best of the best in World Championships Bandwagon Wire Karate  - philippine sports news

Photo from POC-PSC Media Group

In the latest rankings of the World Karate Federation, Tsukii was listed at no. 2 in the world in the female minus-50 kg category. This is the highest world ranking in history obtained by any Filipino karateka.

Tsukii has won two legs of the Karate 1 Premier League this year, the first last May in Portugal and a second one last September in Egypt.

Three out of the top 10 karatekas in Tsukii’s category will not be competing in the world championships. Tsukii holds previous victories over three of the six top 10 ranked karatekas who will see action in Dubai.

Tsukii has already beaten current world no. 4 Sara Bahmanyar of Iran and world no. 10 Moldir Zhangbyrbayin of Kazakhstan in the Lisbon Karate 1 Premier League this year. Tsukii has also defeated world no. 3 Shara Hubrich of Germany in last year’s bronze medal match of the Chile Karate 1 Premier League.

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Three of the biggest threats awaiting Tsukii in Dubai will be Serap Özçelik Arapoğlu of Turkey, Miro Miyahara of Japan, and Bettina Plank of Austria.

Ozcelik is the current world no. one and the reigning European champion. She won the world championship in 2014 and finished with a silver in 2018 and bronze in 2012.

Miyahara is the current world no. five. Japan’s top -50 female karateka was the world champion in 2018. She also won a silver in the 2016 world championships. Both Miyahara and Tsukii were bronze medalists in the 2018 Asian Games.

Plank in the current world no. six and is a Tokyo Olympics bronze medalist. She was the European champion in 2015 and won bronze medals in the 2016 and 2018 editions of the world championships.2019-sea-games-karate-jamie-lim-2 Midlife Halftime: Tsukii, Lim face best of the best in World Championships Bandwagon Wire Karate  - philippine sports news

Lim, ranked 220th in the world in the female minus-68 kg category, will be dropping in weight to join the female minus-61 kg category. The top two in the WKF minus-61 kg category rankings, no .1 Yin Xiaoyan of China and no. 2 Giana Farouk of Egypt, will not be joining the world championships, but there is still plenty of quality opposition that Lim will have to contend with.

Perhaps the two main contenders in the -61 kg category are world no. 3 Merve Coban of Turkey and Jovana Prekovic of Serbia. Coban won a bronze in the Tokyo Olympics. She was the European champion in 2019. Prekovic’s credentials are even more impressive. She won the gold medal in the Tokyo Olympics. She was the world champion in 2018 and the European champion in 2017.

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Two other title contenders in Lim’s category are world no. 7 Anita Serogina of Ukraine and world no. 10 Ingrida Suchankova of Slovakia. Serogina is a former European champion and a bronze medalist in the world championship, while Suchankova has won bronze medals in both the European championship and the world championship.

The Philippines will also be fielding a lean delegation which also includes Sarah Pangilinan and Joco Vasquez who will be the country’s representative in the kata competition.

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