6 Jul 2021

Andrea Anacan becomes first karate Olympian

11:46 am on 6 July 2021

Aucklander Andrea Anacan is set to become the first New Zealander to ever compete in karate at the Olympic Games.

New Zealand Karate Andrea Anacan

Andrea Anacan Photo: PHOTOSPORT

The 30-year-old has officially been added to the New Zealand Team for Tokyo 2020.

She will compete in the non-contact kata competition.

Karate is making its debut at the Tokyo Olympics.

Anacan says she's honoured to represent New Zealand and karate.

"It means the world to me to be part of this New Zealand Team," said Anacan.

"I didn't ever dream of going to the Olympics when I started this sport, it's been a bit of a surprise to be honest. There's been a lot of hard work, I can't quantify the hours that me and my sensei have put in, we never could have imagined this but I couldn't be more excited."

Anacan was born in the Philippines and began the sport at age four due to it's practical applications.

"My mum gave me an option between ballet or karate, apparently I told her, 'well, what's going to happen if I get kidnapped? Do you want me to dance in front of them? Or do you want me to fight them off?"

Anacan moved to New Zealand with her family aged 12, where she linked up with sensei Johnny Ling.

It was on Ling's advice that Anacan gave up competing in the contact version of karate, kumate, and chose to focus on the non-contact version of kata instead.

Kata is a performance discipline where athletes perform a series of offensive and defensive moves popularly known as forms.

"Sensei told me when I was 14, 'if you don't grow any taller in a year, you'll stop competing in kumite and do kata'. Because he told me that I can't reach my opponents when I'm fighting and they're so much taller than me and with a longer reach.

"I didn't grow any taller, I'm still 4ft11 but it's actually really beneficial for kata because my centre of gravity is lower."

New Zealand Karate Andrea Anacan.


Anacan finished seventh at the 2018 Karate World Championships and has been working towards the New Zealand Olympic team since then.

Anacan is known for getting out and about in the community and today was no different, with her naming taking place at the Murray Halberg Retirement Village in Auckland.

The athlete performed some of her routine for residents and took them through some basic kata drills.

Village resident and Olympic bronze medallist (Rome 1960, marathon), Barry Magee, presented Anacan with a fern to formally welcome her to the Olympic team.

Magee also competed at the Tokyo 1964 Olympic Games and has fond memories of his time in Japan.

"The Olympics are a rare honour and experience. There may be laughter, there may be tears, but celebrate the moment and the challenge, the inspiration, the excitement and the adventure," said Magee.

"And remember, once an Olympian, always an Olympian - congratulations!"

Karate New Zealand President Grant Holland says Andrea is a fantastic ambassador for their sport.

"Andrea is a hard worker, a wonderful person and we are grateful she is part of Karate New Zealand," said Holland.

"As a measure of how outstanding this selection is, in excess of 190 countries and more than 10 million people around the world compete in karate so to make it to the Olympic Games is extremely difficult."

The Olympic kata competition begins on August 5th. The event in will be held in Nippon Budokan, an indoor venue located in Tokyo's Kitanomaru Park which hosted judo events at the 1964 Tokyo Olympic Games.