Next month’s Southeast Asian Karate Championships (SEAKC) in Phnom Penh will give an indication of the form of the cream of karate exponents in the region.
The SEAKC will be hosted by the Cambodia Karate Federation (CKF) at the Royal University of Phnom Penh from March 21-17. The SEAKC was originally scheduled to be held last year, but was delayed to next month due to the to the threat posed by the COVID-19 pandemic earlier. The championships will be the first major regional tournament in almost two years.
While it is still too early to tell whether the exponents would display their best or hold back, will very much depend on team strategies.
The top nations may want to hold their cards close their chests, especially with the Hanoi SEA Games just around the corner.
For long, karate in the region was the domain of the top three countries – Indonesia, Vietnam and Malaysia, who won the lion’s share of medals at stake. But in recent years, both the Philippines and Thailand have made up grounds against the top trio.
The Philippines, especially their women, are now a major force in the sport. In the women’s kumite below 50kg, Filipina Junna Tsukii is not the highest ranked SEA exponent at world number four ranking. Filipina exponents Jamie Christine is the highest ranked SEA exponent in the women’s below 61kg.
Both Junna and Jamie are the defending SEA Games champions in their respective categories.
Thailand stunned the karate fraternity at the last edition of the SEA Games in Manila, finishing ahead of both Vietnam and Indonesia in the overall karate medal tally with three gold medals, just one short of the overall winners, Malaysia.
Hosts Cambodia would be hoping to use the tournament to elevate the standards of its exponents, especially in their search for medals at the Cambodia 2023.
The host nations has done reasonably well in international karate competitions in the last few years. In 2018, Cambodia won a gold medal in the Thailand Open Karate-Do Championship in Bangkok, and another five medals at the Southeast Asia Karate Federation Championship in Hanoi, Vietnam.