Spain's golden oldie Sanchez Jaime lands karate's historic first Olympic gold

Karate was included for the first time on the Olympic programme for the pandemic-delayed 2020 Games after decades of lobbying by the sport's governing body.

Spain's Sandra Sanchez Jaime poses with her women's kata gold medal in the karate competition of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at the Nippon Budokan in Tokyo on August 5, 2021. Picture: Alexander Nemenov / AFP

TOKYO, JAPAN - Spain's Sandra Sanchez Jaime won the first-ever Olympic Games karate gold medal on Thursday, becoming her country's oldest ever Olympian at 39 years and 323 days at the spiritual home of martial arts, the Nippon Budokan, in Tokyo.

Sanchez Jaime 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 programme for the pandemic-delayed 2020 Games after decades of lobbying by the sport's governing body.

But its Olympic lifespan is short as it has not been included on the menu for Paris 2024.

Sanchez Jaime, 39, took the historic title with a higher athletic score than the home favourite and two-time former world champion Shimizu after the two karatekas were all square on 19.60 on the technical score.

Sanchez Jaime, the 2018 world champion, beamed and raised her arms skywards after the chief judge had walked out to stand between the two finalists, then raising his 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."

Her husband-coach Jesus del Moral extolled the virtues of the sport mastered by his wife.

"It's very good not only for the physical, but for the mental and the spirit. So I recommend to everybody a breakfast of karate."


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 which staged judo at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics and two years later played host to The Beatles on their tour of Japan.

Sanchez Jaime said: "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, France's Steven Da Costa beat Turkey's Eray Samdan in the men's -67kg kumite final.

The 24-year-old part-time employee with France's state-run railway company 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.

"The great champions have great character, and he is a guy who has great character," said da Costa's coach Olivier Baudry.

He added: "I hope his success will boost the number of people who want to take karate after watching at home on their TVs."

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.

Friday sees finals in men's kata, men's -75kg kumite and women's -61kg kumite.

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