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Top takeaways of the Youth Olympic qualification tournament in Umag


Karate celebrated this past weekend one of the most memorable events of the recent history of the sport: The Youth Olympic qualification tournament. It was the first-ever Karate Olympic qualification tournament, and the thrilling event met all expectations. These are the top takeaways of the 2018 Youth Olympic qualification tournament. 


Japan Karate confirmed its outstanding level with a perfect performance in Umag. All the three Japanese athletes competing in the tournament won the qualification for Buenos Aires 2018 this weekend, thus demonstrating the efficiency and prevalence of the representatives of the birth nation of the sport. 

Japan had previously qualified three karatekas by the Olympic standings (Rinka Tahata, Kokoro Sakaji and Masaki Yamaoka). The successful performance of the athletes of the land of the rising sun in Umag begun on the first day. Kotaro Nakamura finished in the second position of the Male Kumite -68kg while Keisei Sakiyama followed suit and won the qualification in Male Kumite +68kg. 

“I am very happy, I feel great. Karate is very important in Japan, and it is fantastic that we already have so many places in Buenos Aires 2018,” said Keisei Sakiyama after the first day. 

The sensational performance by the Japanese representatives was completed on the second day since Sakura Sawashima also qualified after dominating the Female Kumite +59kg category. 

“I lost on the first day and for me, it was very hard. But I was able to change my attitude, and I am very happy that I could win the qualification in the last chance I had,” said the young Japanese karateka. 


Karate’s universality was clearly manifested this weekend in Umag. Not only 84 countries from five continents were represented at the event. The global impact of the sport was also stated since 24 nations won the right to participate in the Karate competition of the 2018 Youth Olympic Games. 

Nine countries had qualified athletes by the Olympic standings. The number of national flags to fly in the Karate tournament in Buenos Aires increased to 24, with representatives of four continents demonstrating that Karate is truly a universal sport. 

In addition to the traditional powerhouses of the sport – such as Iran, Japan or Russia- new countries took the spotlight in Umag. Guatemala celebrated Pedro Pablo de la Roca’s success in Male Kumite -61kg, just as Thailand enjoyed Aika Okazaki’s prevalence in Female Kumite -53kg. Puerto Rico’s Janessa Michelle Fonseca became one of the stars of the event with an impressive performance in Female Kumite +59kg. 

“I have been dreaming of this moment ever since I saw my first Youth Olympic Games on television. All that we invested, all the hard work, tears, efforts have paid off,” said Pedro Pablo de la Roca. 


In addition to the Japanese delegation, the other big winners in Umag were karatekas from Iran. The powerhouse nation in Karate claimed no less than four Youth Olympic tickets in Umag thus becoming the second country with a bigger number of qualified athletes right after Japan. 

The impressive showcase of Iranian power begun on the first day with Mobina Heydariozomcheloe taking the second place in Female Kumite -59kg. The second day of competition was especially successful for the athletes of the Eastern Asian country since two of their young representatives won their respective categories. Fatemeh Khonakdartarsi dominated Female Kumite -53kg while Alireza Farajikoihikheli prevailed in Male Kumite -61kg. Navid Mohammad wrapped up the outstanding day for Iran with a second place in Male Kumite +68kg. 


The tournament in Umag also became the big opportunity for Karate fans to meet the future stars of the sport. Some of the young athletes participating in the event delivered remarkable performances thus anticipating the upcoming new era of the sport. 

Janessa Michelle Fonseca took the spotlight in Umag with an imposing participation. The young karateka dominated the pool with a striking tally of 18-3 in just four bouts. Her demonstration of offensive Karate continued in the semi-final and final matches. Janessa Michelle Fonseca won the encounters by 7-1 and 2-0 through an effective combination of punches and kicks. 

Ukraine’s Robert Shyroian also showed a great level in Umag with his victory in Male Kumite -68kg. With a tally of 11-2 in four bouts in the pool round, the Ukrainian went to win the tournament after taking a 6-0 victory in semi-finals and a 5-2 victory over favourite Kotaro Nakamura of Japan in the final. 

In an exhibition of perseverance and power of will, Japan’s Sakura Sawashima bounced back from an early elimination on the first day to win the qualification in spectacular fashion. 

“I had a lot of pressure because I was the last one from our team fighting to qualify. But I also had a lot of support from my coaches and my team-mates who helped very much to achieve this success,” added the new Youth Olympian. 

Sawashima suffered a defeat in the third round of the first day after tying the bout 1-1 against France’s Chaimae Zaoujal. The Japanese karateka recovered from the disappointment and produced an outstanding performance on the second day. The Kyoto-born athlete dominated the pool with a tally of 4-0 in three bouts. In semi-finals, the Japanese representative gave a master-class of offensive Karate to beat Spain’s Adriana Gil by 8-0. Sawashima won phase 2 with a 5-0 victory over Lauren Paige Salisbury of Great Britain.   


The Youth Olympic qualification tournament was a true celebration of Karate. Athletes, officials, fans and sports lovers alike enjoyed the historic event in Umag. WKF President Antonio Espinós analysed the tournament and highlighted the showcase of courage and Karate values being displayed in Croatia.  

“The Youth Olympic qualification tournament this weekend in Umag has truly been a memorable moment for our sport. Not long ago, we were just dreaming about organising an Olympic qualification event for Karate; this day finally came, and we could not be any happier. With the tournament now finished, it is time for us to reflect on all the memorable experiences we had in Umag, and to realise that we have experienced a real turning point in the history of our sport,” said Mr. Espinós.  

“As WKF President, I am particularly proud to see the future of our sport demonstrating their abilities in the quest to become the first Youth Olympic karatekas. It was gratifying to see that despite their young ages, they gave such a demonstration of sportsmanship and Karate values in a flawless competition. I am sure that this is only the beginning, and that these young athletes will show the world the many virtues and ideals of our sport during Karate’s historic debut in the 2018 Youth Olympic Games,” added the head of Karate’s international governing body. 

 “I would like to take the opportunity to thank the Croatian Karate Federation and its president Stjepan Celan for their outstanding organisation and for working hard to provide the best conditions for an unforgettable event. Also, many thanks to all those who made possible for us to experience history in the making this weekend in our first Olympic qualification tournament,” stated Mr. Espinós.

Go to the Buenos Aires 2018 micro-site on to find all the information about the Youth Olympic qualification tournament including results and list of qualifed athletes.    

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