(ATR) Antonio Espinos tells Around the Rings it will take time for him and his federation to digest the enormity of becoming an Olympic sport.
"It is not easy after such a long battle that we have been fighting for so many years," he told ATR soon after the IOC session voted to approve karate for Tokyo 2020.
"Of course we were expecting and we were optimistic but in the end I think I and the people from the World Karate Federation will all need some time to understand the importance of this achievement today."
It is one of five sports that have been added to the sports program of the Games – the others are baseball/softball, sport climbing, surfing and skateboarding.
"It’s a milestone in the history of the World Karate Federation," added Espinos, who said he would be celebrating with caipirinha on Wednesday night in Rio.
The karate chief said the venue was not locked down but it was likely to be at Nippon Budokan, an arena in central Tokyo that is labeled the home of Japanese martial arts.
Asked what was his message to those who practice karate worldwide, he said: "Karate is a way of life and the Olympics is a catalyst for developing this way of life and making it known to all the youth of the world."
Espinos said the Olympics was a "unique opportunity" to raise the global profile of his sport and extend the sport’s and Olympic values to the world’s youth.
The World Karate Federation was founded in 1990 and now is comprised of 130 national federations.
Karate's struggle to make it onto the Olympic program dates back to 1985 when the International Olympic Committee began officially recognizing the World Union of Karate-do Organizations. When WUKO tried merging with the International Traditional Karate Federation in 1990, the ITKF refused to join forces and create the WKF, resulting in the IOC revoking its recognition.
WUKO would go on to form the WKF by itself and received IOC recognition in 2008 once again. At the IOC Session in 2009, karate did not receive the necessary two-thirds majority to join the Olympic program. The IOC decision today to approve karate as one of the five new sports brings an end to a 30-year struggle for Olympic acceptance.
More information about the WKF can be found at its website here.
Written by Mark Bissonin Rio de Janeiro
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