British Columbia

Vancouver karate kid thrilled his sport included in 2020 Tokyo Olympics

The International Olympic Committee's decision to include karate as a sport at the 2020 Tokyo Games has thrilled athletes at a Vancouver karate dojo.

'Everyone in the karate community was massively excited'

Khyber Barnett, 17, is ranked No. 1 in Canada and eight in the world in his junior division. He was thrilled to learn that karate will be included as a sport in the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. (Sharon Barnett/BC Sport Karate Snaps)

A a boy, Khyber Barnett was teased for his prowess at karate. It was considered a "nerd sport," Barnett, 17, said.

Today, the Vancouver karate kid is ranked Number 1 in Canada and eighth in the world in his junior division.

And he's pretty certain no one is laughing at his passion for karate — not after Wednesday's announcement from the International Olympic Committee that karate will be included at the 2020 Tokyo Games   

"When I was in elementary school, I was bullied for doing karate," Barnett said.

"But now, I don't think anyone will try that again."

Five new Olympic sports

Karate is among five new summer sports to be included in the Tokyo games. The IOC also gave the nod to skateboarding, sports climbing, surfing and baseball/softball. 

The news thrilled karate lovers like Barnett.

"I was very excited of course," Barnett said. "Everyone in the karate community was massively excited."

Brian James, right, with elite competitors from his Vancouver dojo, Kimeru Shotokan Karate. The dojo has produced a string of karate champions who compete at national and international competitions. (Sharon Barnett)

Barnett hopes karate's Olympic inclusion will spur a nation-wide resurgence in the sport, which he said taught him valuable lessons in self-control, focus and "understanding your own body."

Barnett has travelled the globe competing in tournaments. At the end of August, he heads to the Junior Pan Am Games in Ecuador.

Now, his sights are set on the Tokyo Olympics.

Champion-producing dojo

His fellow athletes at the Vancouver dojo where he's trained since age eight are optimistic too.

Kimeru Shotokan Karate, located near Southwest Marine Drive and Main Street, has produced a string of national and international karate champions.

Its main instructor, Brian James, whose own Olympic dreams were thwarted decades ago, thinks Barnett has a good shot at the Olympics.

"If he stays healthy and trains hard, why not."

James, who was born in South Africa, was a top judo athlete but couldn't compete because his apartheid-riven country was banned from the Olympics.

He had been planning to retire soon, but the news his athletes could quality for the Olympics has spurred him to keep coaching.

"Knowing that my students have a very high chance, it gives me the inspiration to continue instead of retiring."