Was an Olympic Karate Hopeful Denied a Place at the Summer Games?

A recent report raises a lot of questions

Maya Wasowicz
Maya Wasowicz of United States looks on during the Premier League of Karate 1 celebrated at Madrid Arena on November 30, 2019 in Madrid, Spain.
Oscar J. Barroso / AFP7 / Europa Press Sports via Getty Images

With the Tokyo Olympics almost upon us, observers of the event have had a lot to talk about — including policies regarding athletes and cannabis and, even more broadly, whether the Games themselves should be happening at all. Those aren’t the only subjects up for debate, though, and a new investigation from The New York Times offers an in-depth look at the qualifying process for one sport — and how one athlete may have missed her chance at Olympic glory.

The article, by David Waldstein, focuses on Maya Wasowicz, whose sport of choice is karate. Wasowicz has been representing the United States in karate competitions for years now, and had hoped to do so at the Olympics. The Tokyo Games were to be a landmark for the sport, marking the first time athletes would compete in karate at the Olympics. However, as Waldstein notes, Wasowicz lost in a 2020 tournament in Colorado Springs — thus missing out on a chance for further qualification.

Wasowicz and others raised concerns that John DiPasquale, the president of the USA National Karate-Do Federation may have unfairly influenced the rulings in that tournament, in which Wasowicz faced off against Cirrus Lingl. The United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee investigated and found several causes for alarm — including what Waldstein describes as “numerous actual and perceived conflicts of interest.”

The report did not call for any matches to be redone, however, and ultimately neither Wasowicz nor Lingl would qualify for the Olympics. But, as with so many other things related to this year’s Summer Games, this report points to a number of flaws in the systems established to select the nation’s best athletes.

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