TOKYO: Spain’s Sandra Sanchez Jaime won the first ever Olympic Games karate gold medal in Tokyo on Thursday, becoming her country’s oldest ever Olympian at 39 years and 323 days. She ensured her name would be in the sport’s history books by beating Japan’s Kiyou Shimizu in the women’s kata final.
Karate was included for the first time on the Olympic program for the pandemic-delayed 2020 Games, but was not included on the menu for Paris 2024. Sanchez Jaime, 39, took the historic title with a higher athletic score than the home favorite and two-time former world champion Shimizu after the two karatekas were all square on 19.60 on the technical score.
The 2018 world champion Sanchez Jaime beamed and raised her arms skywards after the chief judge had walked out to stand between the two finalists, then raising the right arm to signify victory for Sanchez Jaime. “It is crazy. I am so emotional, I am feeling so many things together. I am happy, but I want to cry,” she said. “I think I need more time to believe that this is real. I want to see my kata and make sure it happened, because right now I can’t believe it.”
Shimizu said she had got “carried away” and lost her usual rhythm but added: “I would like to praise myself that I was able to put my heart and soul into my performance, which is the best I have done recently.” Bronze medals went to Italian Viviana Bottaro and Mo Sheung Grace Lau from Hong Kong. Spain’s previous oldest Olympian was Joan Llaneras who won track cycling gold in 2008 aged 39 years and 91 days.
The karate competition is being held at the Nippon Budokan, the venue with the roof fashioned to resemble Mount Fuji. It staged judo at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics and two years later was where The Beatles played on their tour of Japan. And Sanchez Jaime remarked: “This was the perfect final, with Shimizu, in Japan, at the Budokan. This really is the best moment. It is amazing.”
Karate is split into two disciplines: kata, where athletes perform choreographed moves for the judges to score, and kumite, which involves two fighters trying to land blows on each other in bouts of up to three minutes. Later yesterday, France’s Steven Da Costa beat Turkey’s Eray Samdan in the men’s -67kg kumite final. The part-time employee with SNCF, France’s state-run railway company, 24, won 5-0 on points with an ippon and waza-ari.
Da Costa, whose twin brother, older brother and father are all in the family karate ‘business’, was adding this to his 2018 world championship gold. In the last final of the night Ivet Goranova of Bulgaria beat Ukraine’s Anzhelika Terliuga 5-1 to claim women’s -55kg kumite gold. – AFP