Karate Preview
Karate is making its historic debut at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020, now scheduled to take place in 2021. After several near-misses for inclusion previously, the international karate community now has an opportunity to showcase the sport to the world. 

The sport has been part of the Pan American Games since 1995. At the conclusion of the Pan American Games Lima 2019, the all-time medal count of Team USA is 14 golds, six silvers and 13 bronzes. The inclusion of the sport in Tokyo 2020 will allow the U.S. to continue to highlight its success. 

The Olympic categories will reduce the five weight divisions down to three by combing the two lightest and the two heaviest categories for each men and women. There will be three kumite (fighting) and one kata (forms) category for both women and men. Each category will have 10 athletes, with one spot given to Japan as the host city. There will be a total of 80 athletes at the Olympic Games, selected from 194 countries. Within a category, a country can only be represented once. The competition for qualifying for the Games will be tough, but U.S. athletes are up for the challenge.

Updated on July 20, 2020. For more information, contact the sport press officer here.

Upcoming competition to qualify: Karate1 qualifying events have taken place mostly in Europe and Asia, requiring athletes to travel significant distances to earn points to stay in the running toward qualification for the Games. Missing even one event will cause athletes to lose ground in the rankings. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there is one event remaining where athletes can earn Olympic ranking points planned for 2021. Those who do not qualify through ranking have an opportunity to compete at the Olympic Qualification Tournament in June or July 2021, where the top three athletes in each division will earn their way to the Olympic Games.

2024 decision: The decision to not include Karate in the Olympic program for Paris 2024 has created a sense of urgency for many athletes.  Some younger athletes were setting their plans on 2024 and now feel pressure to try and get in the race for 2021.  At the same time, U.S. athletes have come out of retirement for a chance at the Olympics and 2021 has become the one chance shot for them. USA Karate is hopeful to get an opportunity to be back in the Olympic program in 2028.

Sakura Kokumai  (Los Angeles, California) - Female Kata
Kokumai is currently ranked No. 5 in both the World Karate Federation world rankings and the Olympic rankings. Sakura grabbed a silver medal at the 2019 Pan American Karate Federation Championship and a gold medal in the 2019 Pan American Games in Lima, Peru. At the conclusion of the 2020 competition year, Kokumai has gained enough points between her and the next seated athlete to earn a place in the Tokyo Games in the first round of qualification, naming her the first U.S. athlete to compete in the Olympic Games for the sport of karate.

Tom Scott (Richardson, Texas) - 75kg Kumite
As USA Karate’s team captain and current Pan American Karate Federation Championship gold medalist and a gold medalist in the 2019 Pan American Games in Lima Peru, Scott is currently ranked No. 6 in both the World Karate Federation world rankings and the Olympic rankings. The -75 kg. kumite athlete is one of USA Karate’s top Olympic hopefuls.

Ariel Torres (Hialeah, Florida) - Male Kata
This young athlete is on a roll. After defeating the most decorated athlete in Panamerican Karate Federation history, Antonio Diaz, at the 2019 PKF Championships for the gold medal, Torres has continued his success in the Karate1 events. Torres was also a silver medalist at the 2019 Pan American Games in Lima, Peru. He is currently ranked No. 12 in the Olympic rankings and No. 14 in the World Karate Federation world rankings. The kata athlete continues to rise and is certainly one to watch.

Brian Irr (Newfane, New York)
Currently ranked No. 11 in the World Karate Federation world rankings and No. 17 in the Olympic rankings, Irr is an athlete to keep an eye on. Irr is the 2019 Pan American Karate Federation Championship bronze medalist and a gold medalist in the 2019 Pan American Games in Lima, Peru.The +84 kg. kumite athlete may be well positioned to earn a spot to the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.

Elisa Fonesca (IL), Trinity Allen (LV), Cirrus Lingl (IL) and Brian Hillard (TX) have also earned a spot to represent the U.S. at the Olympic Qualification Tournament. 

The qualification is divided into four main parts. The first qualification will be the top four Olympic-ranked athletes in each category. Based on the current points and remaining event, Sakura Kokumai will be the first U.S. athlete to qualify for Tokyo 2020 for karate. The second qualification event is the Olympic Qualification Tournament (TBD). The athletes attending this include Trinity Allen -55kg kumite (LV), Elisa Au -61kg kumite (IL), Cirrus Lingl +61kg kumite (IL), Brian Hillard -67kg kumite (TX), Tom Scott -75kg kumite, Brian Irr +75kg kumite and Ariel Torres kata. The top three athletes in each division will advance to the Games. The third qualification includes one athlete in each category from the host country, Japan. The final qualification is for continental representation, through which the Pan American Karate Federation will receive three slots.

Points used in the qualification process are earned from the world championship, continental championship and Karate1 events. World and Continental championships are limited to national team members and the Karate1 events are open to any member of the federation.

The U.S. national championship in July 2019 produces the pool of athletes eligible to compete in the national team selection event in early 2020 in Colorado Springs, Colo.  Once USA Karate has selected the national team for the 2020 continental and world championships, it will determine the participants for the Olympic Qualification Tournament. Athletes ranked in the top-12 world ranking will be given preference during the selection of the Olympic Qualification Tournament.  Once USA Karate has identified the categories which need to have an athlete selection, the governing body will use the national team selection to determine the athlete in a category that is not one of the combined weight categories, and the first seed will qualify for the Olympic qualifying event.  For the combined divisions, USA Karate will take the top four athletes in each of the combined divisions and run a competition to determine the athlete to compete in the Olympic qualifying event. 

 June or July, 2021: Olympic Qualification Tournament (TBD)