Karate1 Premier League – Dubai
February 14-16, 2020
After a short break from Paris, Team USA moved on to the second stop of the 2020 Karate1 Premier Leagues, this time in Dubai. Fifth-time host Dubai exists as the only Karate 1 Premier League taking place in Asia this 2020. In this event, Team USA was represented by 9 athletes competing against 594 total competitors from 85 countries around the world.
The current sixth Olympic ranked athlete, Sakura Kokumai dominated on Day 1 producing what the WKF noted as one of the “big upsets of the day”. Kokumai reached her first final in a Karate1 Premier League by performing a “Papuren” kata that earned her a score of 25.42 and moved her into the gold medal final against #1 ranked Sandra Sanchez (ESP). In the finals on Sunday, Kokumai secured a silver medal for Team USA.
Also in Kata, Ariel Torres placed 13th, Gakuji Tozaki and Mason Stowell both placed 15th, and Jessica Kwong placed 19thoverall in their respective categories.
Going into the competition, there is a lot at stake for many karatekas. Tom Scott (-75kg) must defend his Olympic Qualifying spot as seventh place Stanislav Horuna (Ukraine) is a mere 360 points away (as of February 1 rankings). In Dubai, Scott received a bye in the first round but was defeated in the second 2-4 against England. Previously mentioned Horuna won two matches before eventually falling to the pool winner, following this Horuna was defeated in the repechage. It is still up for debate whether or not these two wins will set Scott back in ranking, but he has the opportunity to pull further ahead in upcoming events.
Brian Hilliard (-67kg) was defeated 2-3 against Italy in the first round. Kamran Madani (-84kg) defeated Azerbaijan in the first round, but fell to Macedonia in the second. Brian Irr (+84kg) was defeated in the first round 0-1 against France.
All in all, Team USA finished one silver medal for the Karate1 Premier League in Dubai. After this incredibly challenging yet rewarding competition in Dubai, first seated athletes will return in November for the World Championships. Before that time, athletes have a long and exciting road ahead of them. In the coming weeks, the athletes will travel to Salzburg February 28 – March 1 to continue on the road to Tokyo.