No Malaysian karate exponents qualify for Tokyo Olympics

R. Sharmendran

KUALA LUMPUR: The Malaysian karate team will have to watch the sport’s historic Olympics debut from home, as none of the national exponents managed to qualify for the Tokyo Games, to be held next month.

The country’s last hope, R. Sharmendran was shown the exit after a 1-5 defeat to Nurkanat Azhikanov of Kazakhstan in the Repechage round three at the Karate Olympic Qualification Tournament in Paris, last night.

The 2014 Karate1 World Cup champion, who received a first-round bye, started his campaign in the men’s Under-75kg category by eliminating South Korean Pi Jae-yoon and Panayiotis Loizides of Cyprus in the second and third rounds.

The 28-year-old, however, missed the chance to the quarterfinals after losing 0-5 to finalist Noah Bitsch of Germany, pushing him into the Repechage round.

Getting straight into the Repechage round two, the SEA Games champion managed to clear his first obstacle with a 2-0 win against David Podsklan of Slovakia, but surrendered to Azhikanov, who later went on to win the category.

On the opening day of the qualifiers on Friday, the country’s other two representatives also missed the chance when S. Prem Kumar and P. Madhuri were eliminated in the men’s Under-67kg category Repechage round two and women’s Under-55kg third round respectively.

Only the top three athletes of each category qualify for the Tokyo Olympics scheduled to begin on July 23.

Malaysia Karate Federation (Makaf) deputy president Datuk Vincent Chen said, despite having missed the chance to the Olympics, the three exponents had performed better than expected.

“Prem, who has to change from 55kg to a heavier category performed well to fight against stronger opponents despite being the shortest participant in the category. Madhuri is our back up athlete, but she did well to surprise us to reach the third round in the competitive category.

“Sharmendran surely did well to clear five rounds, but lost to the Azhikanov after a few attacks landed on his head, we will analyse his condition. Overall, no complaints on their performances, taking into the consideration of not participating in tournaments for about 16 months due to the Covid-19 pandemic,” he told Bernama.

Vincent said with the pandemic forced many tournaments to be postponed or cancelled, only the Asian Championship in October and World Championship in November are confirmed for now, while the SEA Games awaits postponement.

On another development, Chen said a new generation of Kata (pattern) team will be identified and developed with the hope to be reckoned with as a powerful team in the future. – Bernama