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Australian Open attracts largest national karate crowd

13 April 2017

KARATE: Just months after karate was added to the Olympic programme, the Australian Karate Federation has hosted the largest sanctioned event ever in Australia.

The Australian Open featured over 1300 entries and was run alongside the Oceania Championships that featured the nation’s best karate athletes taking on the region’s finest.

“It was exciting to see and feel the great buzz of energy as athletes kicked of the 2017 competition season as well as the first step in the long road to Olympic representation in 2020,” said Hani Zahra from the Australian Karate Federation.

One of the standouts from the event and a bright prospect as Tokyo 2020 approaches was Western Australia’s Mitchell Durham.

Durham dominated both the Under 21 and Senior categories in the Kumite -84kg division.

“Durham truly left his mark on national team selectors,” said Zahra.

“He was in great form and displayed some outstanding skill and determination to win gold in the Under 21 division.

“He then sent a powerful message to the incumbent national team members in that category by winning an impressive gold medal in the Senior Male Kumite -84kgs in only his second year as a senior athlete.”

2015 World Youth Kata Champion Holly Boscott won her Australasian Schools Championships age group on Friday before finishing third in the Australian junior division on Saturday and at 16 claimed seventh in her first attempt in the senior division.

“This season is my first year competing in the senior female category, so it’s quite a step up from my other division,” Boscott said, who faced competitors a lot older than her in the senior competition.

“I just stick to my normal warm-up routine and have confidence in myself in my routine and my rounds. I do every round the best I can do it, so no matter who I come up against it is okay.”

In the Oceania Championships Australia won a total of eight gold medals in a strong field that featured athletes from New Zealand (3 gold), New Caledonia (1 gold), Fiji and French Polynesia.

AOC President John Coates was in attendance at the event and was given an honorary black belt from the president of the Australian Karate federation, Michael Kassis.

Mr Kassis was thrilled with the “biggest event we’ve held in Australia” and says the announcement of karate in the programme for Tokyo 2020 has had a major impact on the sport’s popularity in Australia.

“It has given everyone such a boost…especially the young kids who had their doubts about if they wanted to continue karate or not, it has made an immense difference.

“Especially in the Oceania region there has been an increase of about 20% of athletes coming through the ranks.

“Since the announcement of the Olympics we’ve had 30-odd clubs knocking on our door wanting to become part of the Australian Karate Federation.”

Karate will make its Olympic debut at the Tokyo 2020 Games along with fellow new sports surfing, skateboarding, sport climbing while baseball and softball return to the Olympic programme.

Matt Bartolo

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