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USA Karate Athletes Shed Underdog Title And Go For Gold At Pan Am Games

By Kendra Hansey | July 21, 2015, 6:35 p.m. (ET)

Cheryl Murphy (R) fights Yolu Guillen of Venezuela during a karate match during the XVI Pan American Games at the San Rafael Parks Sports Complex on Oct. 28, 2011 in Guadalajara, Mexico.

Leading the U.S. karate team’s fight for gold, Tom Scott returns to the Toronto 2015 Pan American Games after capturing silver in 2011.

“I definitely don’t think we (USA) are underdogs,” says Scott about the squad’s fourth-place seeding going into the Toronto Games. “Four of us are Pan American champions. We know how to bring it. We know how to seal the deal in the end.”

Scott, Brandi Robinson, Joane Orbon and Brandis Miyazaki have won Pan American Karate Championships. These are held every year and are founded by the Pan American United Karate Organization. Whereas, the Pan American Games operate under the Pan American Sports Organization.

Karate is not included in the Olympics, thus the Pan American Games are the premier event for USA Karate.

This will be Scott’s second trip to the Pan American Games. Ranked No. 5 in the world in his division (as of July 13), he won silver at the 2011 Games, dropping the championship bout to Dominican Dionicio Gustavo. 

In their most recent match up at the XXIX Pan American Karate Championships in March, Scott defeated Gustavo, finishing first while Gustavo placed seventh.

“It’s always good motivation and reminds me that he’s going to be there,” says Scott. “I’m definitely not going to rest. I remember the year of the Games, I also head-to-head beat him twice in two different tournaments before the Pan Am Games then he got that decisive one. You can beat up somebody all year, but on the day that it counts you got to make sure that you do it again.”

Scott is ranked first out of the Pan American competitors in his weight category.

While the number of karatekas to qualify range between one and 10, Team USA qualified seven. Robinson (-55 kg.), Orbon (-61 kg.), Tyler Wolfe (-50 kg.) and Eimi Kurita (-68 kg.) make up the women’s team. The men’s team is composed of Scott (-75 kg.), Miyazaki (-60 kg.) and Brian Irr (84+ kg.).

“A few of them are world medalists (Kurita and Wolfe),” said Scott. “We’re bringing a lot of power into these Games. I’m excited to see what damage we can do.”

Leading the U.S. women, Robinson is a Pan American Games first-timer.

“It’s a lot of sacrifices tied with family and parents. That’s my driving motivation that keeps me going,” says Robinson. “I’m out here for a reason. I have a purpose. That’s what keeps me focused.”

The third-year Team USA member moved from Chicago to Hawaii in order to specifically train with Shannon Nishi, who won gold at the 2011 Pan Ams. 

“She said to embrace every moment, enjoy the experience, not just the competition but being in the atmosphere of other Olympic athletes and to take it all in and make memories,” said Robinson.

Robinson is ranked third in the Pan Am field in her weight category. However, at the 2014 Pan American Championships, she beat the opponents ranked ahead of her. 

“It reinforces the confidence that I have with my training and from my coaches – to believe in myself,” said Robinson. “I definitely don’t underestimate any competitor, but I know that I train harder and no one trains harder than I do. I feel like I’ll be prepared and ready to go.”

At the 2011 Pan American Games, Team USA ranked fourth in the karate medal table.

“You see a lot of other countries, maybe the entire team fights similar, you can kind of see their strategies,” said Scott on the advantage of Team USA training individually. “When it comes to the United States, every single person is so unique and fights differently.”

For both men and women, there are five weight categories with a maximum of eight participants.

The athletes will partake in Kumite format consisting of a series of one-on-one bouts of three minutes for men and two for women. Points will be awarded based on successful punches, kicks and strikes.

Kendra Hansey is a student in the Sports Media Certificate program at the University of Georgia’s Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication. 

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Brian Irr

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Brandis Miyazaki

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Tom Scott

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Eimi Kurita

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Joane Orbon

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Brandi Robinson

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Tyler Wolfe