17 October 2018 is a date that will go down in karate history, as the discipline made its Olympic debut, with three gold medals awarded in all on the penultimate day of the Youth Olympic Games Buenos Aires 2018.
The Europe Pavilion at the Youth Olympic Park provided the setting for this momentous occasion, which paves the way for karate’s long-awaited full Olympic debut at Tokyo 2020.
The honour of becoming the first ever Olympic karate champion went to Egypt’s Yasmin Nasr Elgewily, who beat Japan’s Rinka Tahata 2-1 in the women’s -53kg gold medal bout. The bronze medals went to Islamic Republic of Iran’s Fatemeh Khonakdartarsi and Uzbekistan’s Dildora Alikulova.
The next karateka to visit the top of the podium was Saudi Arabia’s Mohammed Ayed Al Assiri, who beat Japan’s Masaki Yamaoka 8-0 in the men’s -61kg final. The podium was completed by Morocco’s Oussama Edari and Fahik Veseli of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.
The 17-year-old Saudi celebrated his gold by walking to the edge of the stage and saluting his coach, before the pair embraced. “I did it because my father is in the military, as is my trainer,” said Al Assiri. “I have achieved this goal after all my training and hard work. And it took a lot of effort to win this medal.”
In the day’s final bout, Japan’s Kokoro Sakaji saw off Russia’s Anna Chernysheva 3-0 to claim the women’s -59kg gold. Islamic Republic of Iran’s Mobina Heydariozomcheloei and Serbia’s Ivana Perovic took the bronzes.
“I’m delighted to be representing Serbia at this inaugural Olympic karate competition,” said Perovic afterwards. “I’m going to do all I can to be at Tokyo 2020 and Paris 2024.”
Giving his reaction to a historic day was Argentina’s team coach Franco Icasati:
For those of us who follow karate closely today was a very emotional and special day.Franco Icasati Argentina’s team coach
Three more karate gold medals will be awarded on Thursday 18 October, the final day of competition at Buenos Aires 2018, one that is sure to bring more special moments on the tatami.