Vietnamese karate waves goodbye to Olympic dream amid Covid-19

By Hoang Nguyen   June 3, 2021 | 05:00 am PT
Vietnamese karate waves goodbye to Olympic dream amid Covid-19
Vietnamese karate athlete (R) at the Asian Games 2018. Photo by VnExpress/Duc Dong.
Covid-19 travel restrictions have prevented the Vietnam national karate team from competing in upcoming Olympic qualifiers.

Vietnam were supposed to fly to Paris on Wednesday for the qualifiers. However, the team could not embark as planned despite careful preparation over the past months.

"Athletes and coaches of the national team will not compete in the Olympic qualifiers. We couldn't do anything because it's impossible to find a flight from France back to Vietnam after competing there due to Covid-19 travel restrictions. After the team had consulted the Department of Physical Sports and Education as well as domestic airlines, it was decided to let the athletes stay home," said Vu Son Ha, head of the karate division, as cited by Saigon Giai Phong newspaper.

Unable to compete in the Olympic qualifiers has dealt a blow to Vietnamese karate. Ha described it as the final and key qualifying round for karate, with the top three athletes in each weight class to receive a direct slot to Olympics Tokyo.

Olympic qualifiers for karate will have a total of 493 athletes from 98 countries participating and around 130 athletes per weight category.

The team were looking forward to Olympics qualification as hosts Japan and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) for the first time allowed karate as one of the official sports of this year’s event.

"Their situation is similar to some other national martial arts teams. We have communicated with the athletes and coaches and told them to keep a stable mentality since that’s the most important thing," Ha added.

Both wrestling and judo teams have also had to miss out on Olympic qualifiers due to Covid-19 since neither could find a flight back to Vietnam post-competition.

To prepare for Olympic qualification, the karate team has been training hard since January this year. Head coach Le Tung Duong and key martial artists have mainly focused on tactical techniques according to specific lesson plans.

Without the Olympics, Vietnamese karate only have one important goal left, which is SEA Games 31 that will be hosted in Vietnam later this year.

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