THE year 2017 is important for the karate fraternity in Penang.
With karate debuting at the Tokyo Olympics in 2020 and the Youth Olympics in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in 2018, the Penang Goshin-Ryu Karate Association (PGRKA) have their work cut out for them.
The national kata (non-combat) exponents are based in Penang.
There is a qualifying period, which begins next year, for both the Olympics and the Youth Olympics.
During the qualifying period, an exponent amasses ranking points based on performances in tournaments. Only those ranked highly at the end of the qualification will compete at the two Games.
The 2014 Incheon Asian Games gold medallists Lim Chee Wei and Syakila Salni Jefry Krishnan seem like sure bets to qualify for the Tokyo Games. Chee Wei, who hails from Penang, is a kata exponent while the Klang Valley-based Syakila is a kumite (combat) exponent.
PGRKA president Patrick Lim said the Tokyo tournament would sport eight categories.
“It will be difficult for our Malaysian karate athletes to qualify for all the eight events.
“At present, Chee Wei and Syakila are highly ranked in the world. But the 2020 Games is still far away and we must continue to work hard during the qualifying period to ensure Malaysia have representatives at the Games,” said Lim during the association’s recent celebration dinner at the Rainbow Paradise Beach Resort in Tanjung Bungah, Penang.
Penang have been producing the best kata exponents for more than three decades, with Ku Jin Keat and Lim Lee Lee being the most successful exponents to date.
Both Jin Keat and Lee Lee are currently coaches at the high performance training centre in Transfer Road, Penang.
While all eyes are on the Tokyo Games, where Malaysian karate exponents stand a chance at ending the country’s Olympics gold drought, Lim feels the Youth Olympics should be given importance too. The Youth Olympics is opened to athletes between 14 and 18 years old.
“It is equally important to help get our exponents make the cut for the Youth Olympics. The Youth Olympics is the ideal platform to produce young karate champions that can go on to compete in the Olympics in the future,” added Lim.
Besides karate, the other sports debuting at the Youth Olympics in Buenos Aires are futsal, BMX freestyle, kite-surfing, cross-country run, beach handball, sport climbing and breakdance.
The celebration dinner was held during a three-day karate camp for young exponents organised by the PGRKA at the hotel.
More than 300 young exponents from Penang, Negri Sembilan, Kelantan, Sarawak, Thailand and the Philippines attended the camp.
Lim, who has been coaching young talents in Penang for the past 40 years, advised the youngsters attending the camp not to forget their humble beginnings at all times.
“My 40 years in karate has been worthwhile. When I started, the training sessions were held along the corridors of the Batu Lanchang wet market and I was conducting classes seven days a week.
“For me, karate is not just about bringing in the medals ... it is not a sport, but a way of life,” said Lim.
The Penang Youth and Sports Committee chairman Chong Eng officially opened the camp. Both the State Local Government, Transport Management and Flood Mitigation Committee chairman Chow Kon Yeow and Chong Eng were guests of honour at the appreciation dinner.