Jesuit grad is the top American medal hopeful for debut sport in Tokyo
Having karate as an Olympic sport for the first time this summer in Tokyo gives Tom Scott a golden opportunity.
The Jesuit graduate has ranked among the top international athletes in the kumite discipline for years. In June, he will learn whether he has a chance to make history as the top American medal hopeful.
“We’ve always pictured ourselves as Olympic-level athletes,” Scott said. “Karate has always been one of the little brother sports out there. It’s just something we’re happy to have a shot at it.”
Scott will head to a qualification tournament in Paris June 11-13. He competes in the 75-kilogram weight class, for which 10 athletes will make the Tokyo field. The top four in the world rankings in each class earn automatic bids. So does the top performer from Japan, the host nation.
The top three finishers in the June tournament and two wildcard invites will round out the field. Scott ranks No. 6 in the world, putting him in favorable shape.
We’ve always pictured ourselves as Olympic-level athletes.Tom Scott
“You want to make it, but thinking about that isn’t going to help,” he said. “You just have to focus on the basics and execute your fundamentals.”
Scott started karate when he was 8. By the time he was 14, he was a member of the U.S. Junior National team and had to miss the first week of his freshman year at Jesuit because of a tournament in Chile.
After graduation, Scott earned a degree from TCU, but the demands of college caused him to reduce his travel schedule and contemplate his future.
“You have to do karate because you love it,” Scott said. “A lot of kids we lose because they want to play sports that can get you into college. For me, the choice was clear. I could have been second or third-string on the football team or travel the world to all these different events.”
Scott, 31, earned gold at the Pan American Games in 2015 and 2019. In 2019, his schedule included events in France, Dubai, Austria, Panama, Morocco, Turkey, China, Canada, Japan, Spain, Russia, and Chile.
Then came the COVID-19 pandemic, which not only interrupted his training but delayed the Olympics a year.
“It was really stressful,” Scott said. “I fell back in love with my sport during the last year by really enjoying it more rather than just grinding because of the Olympics.”
Since high school, Scott has taught at the Academy of Classical Karate in Plano, operated by his longtime coach, Brody Burns.
Karate won’t be part of the Olympic program in 2024 in Paris, and its status for 2028 in Los Angeles remains undetermined.
However, Scott isn’t sweating his first — and possibly last — chance.
“The Olympics is not an end for me,” Scott said. “I can make a living doing what I love, and still compete, and enjoy the sport for as long as I’m healthy.”
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