WHILE qualifying for the rescheduled Olympic Games is foremost for the national karate team as it begins its training “bubble,” it also has its sights on the Southeast Asian (SEA) Games later this year.

Speaking at Tuesday’s online Philippine Sportswriters Association Forum, Karate Pilipinas Sports Federation, Inc. President Richard Lim shared that apart from the Olympics, they also have their eyes on the SEA Games in November in Vietnam.

“November may still be far, but for an athlete preparing for the SEA Games, that’s near,” said Mr. Lim, who was one of the guests in the forum along with Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) National Training Director Mark Velasco.

They will try to improve on their fifth-place finish in the 2019 edition of the Games held here where they hauled a total of 12 medals — two gold, one silver, and nine bronze medals.

The country’s karatekas are one of the groups currently holed up at the INSPIRE Sports Academy in Calamba, Laguna, where they will stay for the next couple of months as they train and prepare for various international competitions, including Olympic qualifiers.

National karatekas in the bubble are SEA Games gold medallist Jamie Lim, Sharief Afif, Alwyn Batican, Jason Macaalay, and Ivan Agustin. They will be joined later by Junna Tsukii and Joan Orbon, who are both coming from abroad.

Also at the facility are the boxing and taekwondo teams, as well as the Gilas Pilipinas basketball team preparing for the third and final window of the FIBA Asia Cup Qualifiers in February.

Mr. Lim said that their team welcomes the chance to once again train as a group face-to-face after training under such a setup was sidelined by the coronavirus last year.

The karate official admitted doing things under a bubble has many challenges but expressed their readiness to comply with all the health and safety protocols put up by the PSC to ensure that the undertaking is a success.

“We have to prioritize the safety of everybody… Health [of the participants] is our primary concern,” Mr. Lim said.

The karatekas are eyeing the last Olympic qualifier in Paris, France, in June. They are also set to train abroad after the bubble. — Michael Angelo S. Murillo