Behind the Scenes of Daniel Gaysinsky’s Dramatic Qualification for Olympic Karate Debut
It had been well over a year since Daniel Gaysinsky had last stepped into the ring, and with Ontario’s strict COVID-19 restrictions, it was nearly impossible to attend national or international training camps.
Unlike many countries that have centralized programs, this was not our reality in Canada. The majority of athletes found themselves training alone in their clubs with few or no partners. Some athletes have been forced to be resourceful and create training spaces at home.
None of these things seemed to bother Daniel, he was completely confident in his training and preparation despite the new situation. He also completely trusted his coaches and those who had supported him unconditionally in the years leading up to this last-ditch qualifying event. Sharing his career, his partner Melissa Bratic would also participate in the Olympic qualifying event in Paris. She has been his primary training partner throughout the pandemic. Melissa qualified in the top four group in her category, just one placement from qualifying for Tokyo.
Paris was the last stop on a three-year stony road to qualify for the Olympics. Over the years there had been a lot of wins and setbacks. There had also been injuries and surgeries typical of combat sports, but the effects worsened and amplified during the regular qualifying period in which competitions were only spaced a few weeks apart, often over different continents, and allowed very little recovery. time between events.
Daniel arrived in Paris knowing that he was fully committed to his goal, that there had been no shortcuts taken, everything that could have been done had been. He planned thoroughly and implemented a very methodical and intelligent approach in his preparation for his final shot at the Games.
He entered with the mindset that he had everything to gain and nothing to lose.
The men’s over 75 kilogram category was the final round of the qualifying event. Daniel suffered an upheaval after losing in the first round to Saudi Arabia’s Tareg Hamedi. At first, Daniel was discouraged, as you might expect. However, he continued to patiently follow his opponent through the playoff rounds. At the end of the playoff rounds, the Saudi athlete advanced to the final, which meant Daniel had a chance to come back later in the draft. It was another chance! He was determined to be in the final, and he wouldn’t let the opportunity slip by. “” I’ll get it, “he told us, with convincing certainty.
The quality of his training and preparation was highlighted as he won five consecutive games with only three minutes of rest between each fight. In the draft, Daniel beat Lithuania, Dominican Republic, Ukraine, Azerbaijan and Hungary. It was a grueling climb, but he demonstrated his superiority over all his opponents and thus earned his place in the final group – four karatekas in a round robin tournament. Of the four athletes who qualified for the round robin, only three qualified for the Olympics.
The round robin matches were very difficult and difficult. There have been a few minor injuries sustained in his previous six games, it never deterred him. After two losses in the round robin we sent him into his final game knowing he needed a win – even a tie would put him in fourth in the group and he wouldn’t qualify for the Games. . It was all or nothing.
Daniel controlled the final match against Dutch athlete Tyron Lardy. In the last minute of the match, the Dutch athlete managed to tie the fight at 3-3. However, Daniel still had the senshu – the first point advantage – that would give him the win in the event of a tie.
In the last three seconds of the fight, the corner referee sanctioned Daniel for leaving the tatami mat. At that point, three seconds to the end of the game, the first point advantage was lost, as was his chance to qualify for Tokyo. At the end of the fight, the referees declared a draw, which put Daniel in fourth place, just one position before qualifying. Many viewers in Canada including Daniel’s club coach Roman Saltikov stopped watching the live broadcast, it was amazing. It really seemed like the Olympic dream was lost.
I had watched the game from the stadium staging area and I clearly remember watching the game live I was quite taken aback by the last foul. I was not convinced that a fault had been made. In fact, a quick one-angle look at images would reveal that it hasn’t gone out of bounds. I took quick action to communicate with coach Kraig Devlin, who has been coaching from the president, that we urgently need to issue a formal protest to dispute the foul. For reference, having an official protest during a final match is a very rare event in karate. What is even rarer is to be successful. In this case, however, we were successful.
After officials reviewed the footage, they determined that the fault had not been committed. In an unusual and captivating twist, the two athletes were brought back to the ring. The time was set at three seconds remaining in the fight. More importantly, the foul was called off and Daniel regained his first point advantage. All he had to do was maintain his lead or score another in the remaining three seconds of the fight. Daniel finished the game triumphantly and even managed to land a header, which went unscored.
The emotions were overwhelming, as Daniel said in a post-game interview, the feeling was indescribable. It was a tough battle from start to finish, but on that day our athlete made history and qualified for karate debut at the Olympics. I am extremely proud of what Daniel and our national federation have accomplished. This journey is far from over, and the goal is and always has been to reign as an Olympic champion. A goal that requires nothing less than meticulous planning and execution, tactical discipline, determination and last but not least courage.