MMA has seen Taekwondo and Judo firmly established in the Olympics, with both disciplines painting the sport of MMA in an overwhelmingly positive light, but is there an argument that the inclusion of Karate in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics might well be retrospectively viewed simply as an opportunity for Japan to increase their medal haul in their host year?
Tokyo 2020 will be the first Summer Olympics to have been allowed the flexibility to propose new sports for their edition of the Games, so it could be interpreted that the inclusion of Karate, a sport rejected previously for inclusion in the Olympics, has been pushed through in a bid to improve upon the gold medal tally Japan achieved when they last hosted the Olympics in 1964, whilst attempting to surpass the country’s highest ever number of medals. This record came at Rio 2016 when the Japanese team earned 41 medals in total (although only 12 of these were gold).
Of course, the inclusion of more sports in Tokyo 2020 is a golden opportunity for betting fans, and bookies like Betway will be hoping to appeal to an ever wider range of punters with a range of new betting markets to accompany the newly approved sports. The question does remain, though, as to whether the Karate event will end up representing something of a victory parade for the Japanese, but is this fair?
Building on an impressive showing at the 2016 World Championship
Let’s look back at the impressive Japanese performance at the 2016 World Karate Championship in Linz in Austria. They topped the medal table with double the number of gold medals of the nearest competitor France, so it seems that Japan has in place a strong foundation to dominate a sport that it has consistently led the way in. The men and women’s teams won their respective team Kata events, whilst Japanese athletes won both the individual Kata events, so it does appear that the gold medals are lined up waiting to be collected by the host nation.
Challenge from France and Iran
It won’t all be plain sailing for them though. While Japan might have sown up the Kata competition, both Iran and France (and France in particular) have a good chance to steal Japan’s thunder in the Kumite events. France dominated the women’s events during the Worlds, and Iran put in a strong showing in the men’s events, with Japan only managing to earn a solitary individual gold medal in both the men and women’s events.
If Iran and France continue to fund their Karate teams in preparation for Tokyo 2020, it is entirely conceivable that they will stand a strong chance of denying Japan the opportunity to dominate the sport, much against the hopes and dreams of the host nation.
Watch out for Great Britain
Closer to home soil, only England out of the four nations that make up Great Britain were successful in winning a medal at the 2016 Karate World Championships. The fact that the medal in question was gold could have a significant bearing on a British challenge to Japan at Tokyo 2020.
Jordan Thomas: Meet Britain’s world champion karate kid
Great British Olympic funding is based on the chance of winning a medal. The British Karate Federation has seen its application for funding deferred until 2017 and if they can make a strong case that the success of Jordan Thomas can be emulated at the Olympics, Team GB might put in more of a challenge compared to their overall showing in Austria at the World Karate Championships.
The hosts with the most?
Despite the challengers in the Kumite events and perhaps optimistic challenges from our own shores, it still seems likely that the Japanese Olympic Association is going to provide some serious muscle in an attempt to show the world that Japan can dominate a sport that it not only invented but has continued to dominate on the world stage.