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Pangilinan, Vasquez kata hopefuls in Paris qualifiers

Sarah Pangilinan brings her act to Paris.

SARAH PANGILINAN and Joco Vasquez are hoping to qualify for karate’s kata competitions when the sport makes its Olympic debut in Tokyo.

Pangilinan, a Filipino-Japanese who turned 18 only last May 21, settled for a bronze medal in the 2019 Southeast Asian Games, but is confident of pulling off a surprise in the Olympic qualifiers set at the Accor Hotels Arena Sports Hall in Paris, France, from June 11 to 13.

“I believe I have a big chance of making it to the Olympics because all the strongest kata artists have already qualified for Tokyo,” Pangilinan told BusinessMirror on Monday from her home in Osaka. “There’re only a few strong opponents left.”

Spain’s Sandra Sanchez Jaime, the world No. 1, already qualified for the Games by virtue of her ranking in the World Karate Federation (WKF), and so are No. 2 Kiyou Shimizu of Japan, No. 3 Viviana Bottaro of Italy and No. 4 Grace Mo Sheung of Hongkong.

She is ranked No. 64 in the WKF and No. 78th in the Olympic standings, but that doesn’t bother Pangilinan, who at 15 won gold medals at the Asia Pacific Shitoryu Karatedo Championship in Indonesia and the All Japan Shitoryu Karatedo Championships in 2018.

She will fly to Paris from Tokyo with her Japanese mother Miyuki on Monday, but his Filipino father Ritchie will be left behind because of his job as a hotel chef. Her sensei Sonoyama Masae won’t join her in Paris but will monitor her online.

Vasquez, a 20-year-old pride of Dagupan City, will be accompanied in Paris by coach Chino Veguillas also on Monday.

The Pangasinense Vasquez ranks No. 5 in the Asian Karate Federation kata under-21 ranking  and No. 20 in the world in the same age group.

He clinched a silver in the Southeast Asian Karate Championships last April in Bangkok and bagged an individual and team bronze medal in the 2019 SEA Games.

Another Filipino-Japanese, Junna Tsukii (women’s -50 kg), is on the Karate Pilipinas roster of Olympic hopefuls in kumite, along with 2019 SEA Games gold medalist Jamie Lim (women’s 68 kgs) and bronze winner Joanne Orbon (women’s 61 kgs), Ivan Agustin (men’s -75 kg), Sharief Afif (men’s +75 kg), Jason Macaalay (men’s -67 kg) and Alwyn Batican (men’s -67 kg).

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