Filipino boxing legend Manny Pacquiao serves as inspiration and role model for a generation of athletes including females like karateka Junna Tsukii who won a bronze medal in the 2018 Asian Games.
Tsukii won over Thailand’s Raksachart Paweena, 4-1, to secure the bronze in women’s Kumite -50 kg for the Philippines. She says she may be a female but shares many similarities with Pacquiao who has overcome the odds to become a world champion.
“Manny Pacquiao is my idol. He’s also small. He’s not very big. But his fighting style is very good. I get inspiration from him even though I’m a girl,” said Tsukii.
She gained some measure of revenge with her victory. She won a bronze medal in the 2017 Southeast Asian Games in the same event while Paweena got the silver. She also improved on her 11th place finish in the Asian Championships last July.
At the 2018 Philippines National Games Tsukii won a gold in Kumite and a silver in Kata. She focused on just Kumite in the Asiad.
“I like Kumite because it’s sparring. You can make up for mistakes. But in Kata you lose if you make one mistake. But in sparring you can adjust if you make little mistakes. Sparring is exciting for me. But sparring can be dangerous. You can get crushed. You can break bones. I myself have suffered a broken tooth,” said Tsukii who is apparently not afraid of combat.
“I also go to practice MMA in Japan. I even do boxing in Japan. I am small. I need power and speed. That’s why it’s not enough to do just karate training. That’s why I try other disciplines as well.”
The 26-year-old Fil-Japanese was invited to compete in MMA in Japan but chose to focus on her sport.
“I have my sights on the Olympics. After Olympics maybe. But you cannot go to other sports when you’re doing karate because it’s amateur sport. That’s why we cannot do both. We have to choose one,” she said.
Tsukii lost her quarterfinal match to finalist Babaeva Bakhriniso of Uzbekistan but defeated Alajmi Hawraa of the United Arab Emirates in the repechage to stay in the medal hunt.
“The opponent (Backhriniso) was very good and faster, but I was convinced that I could beat her. I am grateful that she went to the final. Thanks to that, I was able to fight for the bronze through the repechage,” said Tsukii who persevered despite her loss to the Uzbek.
She initially thought it would be hard to get a medal because of the many world ranked athletes in her category. She said it was nice to get a medal somehow.
Up next for Tsukii is the Karate World Championships in Madrid, Spain this November and the 2018 Karate 1 - Series A Shanghai, China this December. She will participate in those competitions with the hope of qualifying to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
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