The inaugural Olympic karate competition came to a conclusion on Thursday 18 October, the final day of the Youth Olympic Games Buenos Aires 2018.
Gold medals were awarded in the women’s kumite +59kg, men’s kumite -68kg and men’s kumite +68kg categories. Norway’s Annika Saelid, Belgium’s Quentin Mahauden, and Islamic Republic of Iran’s Navid Mohammadi were the respective gold medallists at the Youth Olympic Park’s Europe Pavilion, which once again drew large crowds for a second intense day of karate action.
Saelid won her gold at the expense of Japan’s Sakura Sawashima, the Norwegian compiling a 3-0 victory in a competition in which the bronzes went to Great Britain’s Lauren Salisbury and Islamic Republic of Iran’s Negin Altooni.
“It’s completely different at the Youth Olympic Games,” said Salisbury when asked for her view on competing in the Olympic spotlight. “Everything is focused on one mat and you don’t normally get that, even in a world or European championships. All eyes are on one match.”
Looking ahead to the possibility of competing on home soil in two years’ time, Sawashima said: “I am very happy Tokyo is hosting karate at the Olympics. I don’t know if I’m going to be able to participate in the Olympics, but I’m going to try. At the same time I feel pressure because it’s quite a challenge, but I have always enjoyed this sport.”
Belgium’s Mahauden beat Morocco’s Yassine Sekouri by a narrow 1-0 margin to secure the men’s -68kg gold. Kazakhstan’s Abilmansur Batyrgali and Italy’s Rosario Ruggiero shared the bronzes.
Highlighting the camaraderie among the athletes, the Belgian said: “We forget the friendships for two minutes, but afterwards it is a different game.”
Mohammadi claimed the sixth and final karate gold of Buenos Aires 2018 courtesy of an emphatic 5-0 defeat of Morocco’s Nabil Ech-Chaabi in the men’s +68kg final, with Ireland’s Sean McCarthy Crean and Turkey’s Enes Bulut sharing the last place on the podium.