Junna Tsukii: I never lose hope

JUNNA TSUKII looked doomed in her first fight at the Birmingham World Games on Saturday in Alabama, but like a bamboo tree—either the Japanese or Philippine variety—she was relentlessly pliable and stood rigidly tall in the end.

“I don’t lose hope,” the 30-year-old Filipino-Japanese whose women’s -50 kgs in kumite of karate was the country’s only second gold medal in the World Games after Carlos Biado triumph in men’s 9-ball of billiards in 2019 in Wroclaw.

“I was down in the first round just like the rest of my previous tournaments, but I didn’t give up as my father [Shin] always taught me,” Tsukii told BusinessMirror on what was a rest-day for the 10-member Team Philippines in Birmingham on Monday.

“I kept fighting until the end and I always believe in myself—I never lose hope,” she said.

Tsukii opened with a 1-8 loss to Venezuela’s Yorgelis Salazar, the same opponent she met—and defeated—in the final, but bounced back with a 6-4 win over Germany’s Shara Hubrich.

She lost again to Spain’s Gema Morales via first score advantage despite a 3-3 tie.

It was a different Tsukii who battled Salazar in the gold medal play. She didn’t disappoint.

“I studied her moves and techniques wisely and thanked God I got her this time,” said Tsukii, who got back at the Venezuelan, 2-0, to win gold.

Tsukii was all primed for the Tokyo 2020+1 Olympics but failed in the Paris qualifiers last June. She also missed the gold and settled for a silver medal at the Vietnam 31st Southeast Asian Games last May, losing the title she convincingly won  in the 2019 Philippine edition.

“I lost a lot this year, but I just kept going despite being frustrated and shocked after those defeats,” she said. “That’s life, you have to continue fighting to achieve your goals.”

Still to compete in Birmingham are Biado and Rubilen Amit in billiards, Annie Ramirez in jiu-jitsu, Philip Delarmino and Leeana Bade in muay and Marion Kim Mangrobang, John Chicano and Fernando Caseres in duathlon.

Powerlifter Joyce Gail Reboton finished ninth overall among 12 participants in the women’s heavyweight class last Sunday.