Despite the recent failure to send a team to the recent Pan American Games in Toronto, Canada, the Trinidad and Tobago Karate Union (TTKU) is attempting to establish a foothold in traditional sports in the Pan American Region. That was the message from president Mario Kalloo who is also an instructor and a referee in the organisation.

T&T did have a representative at the 2011 edition of the Pan Am Games, with Kwame Kinsale representing the country at the preliminary kumite (sparring) rounds at the San Rafael Gymnasium in Guadalajara, Mexico. However, in the qualifiers for the Games, the national body only sent a lone representative; kata exponent Zachary Alexander, who was unable to qualify for Pan Am this year. According to Kalloo, Alexander was the only one who was up to standard from the local fraternity.

However, the disappointment of not qualifying for the Pan Am Games has not hindered plans to further develop the sport.

“This week, we have a competition in Nicaragua,” said Kalloo. “Both Dexter Shim (kata coach) and I will be going with the team.”

Currently, the TTKU is the national body for the sport, and is recognised by the Trinidad and Tobago Olympic Committee (TTOC).

And the trip to Central America isn’t the only competition in store for the national team. The national body is also preparing to send athletes to the Pan American Championships in Bolivia at the end of August, another competition in Martinique in September and an open tournament in Curaçao at the end of October.

“All these competitions will be in preparation for the second Caribbean Karate Championships which will be hosted here next year,” said Kalloo.

According to the president, there currently is a promising group of young karateka who have been getting good results recently in overseas competition. “Jesse Gonsalves finished 11th overall in the Male Under 60kg kumite division at the WKF World Championships last year,” he said.

Gonsalves became the first karateka from T&T to compete at the World Championships.

Other noteworthy youngsters include Keiden Joseph and Kate Gordon who are both members of Trinidad Associated Schools of Karate (TASK). “Darell Thomas is also showing a lot of promise,” Kalloo said. “Also Edward Rajmoolie has been showing improvement, he has been the most-improved competitor in the national team.”

Kalloo also said that David Skinner-Ballantyne is also an athlete showing promise. Both Rajmoolie and Ballantyne have been in the national set-up for almost a decade and are still in their twenties. Rajmoolie medalled both in kata and kumite in the recent inaugural Caribbean Championships in Suriname. They both train with the SKIF Kanawaza Group.

Currently, Japan, the host country for the Tokyo Olympics, is lobbying for the sport to become an Olympic event. Kalloo believes based on history, karate will be an event at the 2020 Games. When the Games last were held in Toyko in 1964, judo was included in the Games, and taekwondo was a demonstration event at the 1988 Games in Seoul, eventually becoming an official event in Sydney in 2000.

With the Olympics in consideration, the focus is currently on the younger athletes, and the TTKU intends to host a training camp next week from the 14-16 August. Former world champion, and ten-time Venezuelan champion, Luis Rubio will oversee the camp which will help athletes refine their competition skills.

“We have been working quietly for a long time,” Kalloo said. “And we intend to continue to build a good foundation which is important for the best level of the sport here.”