Pan Am Preview

June 22, 2015, 12:55 p.m. (ET)

Pan American Games Preview


By Kendra Hansey

Leading the U.S. Karate team’s fight for gold, Tom Scott returns to the Toronto 2015 Pan American Games (July 10-26) 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 as defined by the Olympic Charter.

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. 4 in the world, he won silver at the 2011 Games after losing the championship bout against Dominican Dionicio Gustavo. 

In their most recent match up at the XXIX Pan American Adult Karate Championships in March, Scott defeated Gustavo and also finished 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 [2011 Pan Ams], 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, 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),” says Scott. “We’re bringing a lot of power into these Games.  I’m excited to see what damage we can do.”

Leading the USA 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,” says Robinson.

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

“It reinforces the confidence that I have with my training and from my coaches--to believe in myself,” says 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 medal table.

“You see a lot of other countries, maybe the entire team fights similar, you can kind of see their strategies,” says 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.”

The karate portion of the Pan Ams occurs near the end of the Games, July 23-25.  For both men and women, there are five weight categories with a maximum of eight participants.

The coaching staff includes team leader Brody Burns, assistant head coach Tommy Hood, and head coach Tokey Hill. 

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

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