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Olympics: Japan's Kiyou Shimizu wins silver as karate makes debut

Kiyou Shimizu performs in the Tokyo Olympic women's karate kata final on Aug. 5, 2021, at Nippon Budokan in Tokyo. (Mainichi/Yuki Miyatake)

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Japan's Kiyou Shimizu claimed a silver medal in karate's historic debut at the Tokyo Olympics on Thursday, won by Sandra Sanchez Jaime of Spain in the final matchup of women's kata.

    At Nippon Budokan, known as the spiritual home of Japanese martial arts, Shimizu scored 27.88 points to finish 0.18 point behind the Spanish reigning world champion in the event in which athletes compete to execute a series of movements more proficiently than their opponents.

    The bronze medals went to Italy's Viviana Bottaro and Hong Kong's Grace Lau Mo-sheung.

    "I faced a lot of difficulties to reach this point so I really wanted to win," Shimizu said through tears. "I've been working for the past five years to win here at Budokan, so I'm really frustrated, but I want to thank everybody who has supported me along the way."

    In the event, karatekas perform kata that they select from 102 types. They consist of offensive and defensive movements targeting a nonexistent opponent and are scored based on their technical and athletic performance.

    While the 27-year-old Shimizu and 39-year-old Sanchez Jaime did the same kata called the "Chatanyara Kushanku," their performance was very much different. Shimizu's movements had speed, while the Spaniard appeared to have focused on individual movements and facial expressions.

    "It is crazy. I am so emotional, I am feeling so many things together. I am happy, but I want to cry," said Sanchez Jaime, who also defeated Shimizu in the most recent world championships in 2018.

    "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."

    Karate, a combat sport that originated in Okinawa, was added to the Olympic program for the first time following proposals by the Japanese organizers, along with skateboarding, sports climbing and surfing.

    While the other newly introduced sports will be contested at the next Summer Olympics in 2024, karate was dropped from the program, making the Tokyo Games possibly the only time the sport is showcased at the Olympics. It will be replaced by breakdancing in Paris.

    The other karate competition, kumite, features three-minute bouts and is divided into three weight classes for both men and women.

    In the men's 67-kilogram division, France's Steven da Costa beat Turkey's Eray Samdan for gold. Kazakhstan's Darkhan Assadilov and Jordan's Abdel Rahman Almasatfa earned bronze.

    Ivet Goranova of Bulgaria won the women's 55-kg gold after defeating Ukraine's Anzhelika Terliuga. The bronze medals were awarded to Austria's Bettina Plank and Taiwan's Wen Tzu-yun.

    Japan's Miho Miyahara and Naoto Sago did not advance past the elimination round in the women's 55-kg kumite and men's 67-kg kumite, respectively.

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