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  • Karate Pitches "Win-Win Situation" for 2020 Olympics


    (ATR) President Antonio Espinos tells Around the Rings the World Karate Federation is “more than ready” for inclusion in the 2020 Olympics.
    World Karate Federation general secretary George Yerolimpos and president Antonio Espinos at SportAccord. (ATR)

    The black belt from Bilbao spoke with ATR on the heels of the IOC’s penultimate inspection visit to the seven sports shortlisted for the Summer Games.

    Michael Fennell of Jamaica represented the Program Commission in Paris for the 41st World Karate Championships, which wrapped up Nov. 25 at the Palais Omnisports de Paris-Bercy.

    More than 1,000 athletes from 166 countries fought in the five-day event with hosts France topping the medals table.

    “Belgrade two years ago and Tokyo four years ago were very successful, but this was the best championships ever,” says Espinos, citing the “very big” venue, packed crowds and professional TV production as reasons why.

    After spending three full days with the IOC inspectors, he says he heard “positive feedback only” during their stay, which including tours of athlete accommodations, anti-doping controls and other ancillary facilities.

    “It’s up to them to decide,” he tells ATR.
    Ryutaro Araga of Japan and Kenji Grillon of France fight for -84kg gold in Paris. (Getty Images)

    “I feel that I cannot anticipate their opinion, but they have seen a World Karate Federation and a sport that are ready for the Olympic challenge.”

    Asked if karate will incorporate feedback from the world championships into its presentation to the Program Commission, he confirmed the WKF is busy tweaking its materials ahead of Wednesday’s date with the IOC.

    “Always you learn things,” says the Spaniard.

    “I feel that we have been able to make some improvements.”

    Notably, the competition program featured last month in Paris is exactly the same as the one that will be pitched next week in Lausanne.

    Karate is proposing just one discipline – the sparring-based Kumite – rather than the more choreographed Kata, which is most often practiced solo.

    Espinos will ask the IOC for 10 weight categories – five for men, five for women – with 12 athletes a piece, or 120 total.

    As WKF president since 1998, he has presided over two previous bids for the Olympics – one in 2005, another in 2009 – and says this one presents karate its best chance yet to join the Games.
    Antonio Espinos is flanked by IOC inspectors Michael Fennell and Pierre Fratter-Bardy in Paris. (WKF)

    “If we were very close in 2005, with such a huge improvement that we have been making in the meantime, I feel like we are more than ready and more than prepared to be an Olympic sport,” he tells ATR.

    Cable wakeboard, roller sports, squash, sport climbing, wushu and a joint bid by baseball/softball are the other six contenders facing a decision of the IOC Executive Board in May 2013.

    “There is only one place. We cannot anticipate what the others are doing. All the candidates are very good sports. This is why they have been shortlisted by the IOC,” says Espinos.

    “We are convinced that we give big value to the program, and of course, the program is giving high value to karate. If we enter into the program, it’s a win-win situation.”
    Reported by
    Matthew Grayson.

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