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Grand Winners light up day two of Karate 1-Premier League Tokyo

2019-09-07

Grand Winners produced fantastic performances on the second day of competition at the 2019 Karate 1-Premier League Tokyo and qualified for the finals of the tournament. Ayumi Uekusa, Jonathan Horne and Alizee Agier were among the big winners today in the event taking place in the same venue where Karate will be making its Olympic debut in the Tokyo 2020 Games next year. 

Using her Grand Winner status, top favourite Alizee Agier of France went back to winning ways and reached the final of Female Kumite -68kg. The current owner of the “Best of the Best” award defeated China’s Li Gong in semi-finals by a slim 1-0 and will try to continue the streak that she started with the gold medal she won in the last event in Shanghai. In the final, Agier will meet World champion Irina Zaretska of Azerbaijan who also presented a great level today. The current world title-holder qualified for the last day of action after a hard-fought semi-final against Austria’s Alisa Buchinger 5-5. 

“I hope that I will be able to win the gold medal tomorrow,” said Alizee Agier. “The bout against Irina (Zaretska) will be a very strategic match; it will be a good clash to watch. I really enjoyed competing here in Nippon Budokan. Of course, I think about what will happen here next year, but I prefer to go step by step,” added the Grand Winner. 

JONATHAN HORNE ALSO TAKES GOLDEN KARATE-GI TO FINALS 

Grand Winner Jonathan Horne extended the success of the athletes with the golden karate-gi today and also made it to the final. The World ranking leader in Male Kumite +84kg aims at winning the first gold medal in Karate 1-Premier League this year after defeating Georgia’s Gogita Arkania in semi-finals by a slim 1-0. 

“It is great to compete here at Nippon Budokan. It brings me back to the World Championships in 2008. Next year I hope that I will have the chance to be here again,” said the World ranking leader. “My performance today was good, I think. It was very tactical; I hope to continue improving and for that, I keep training hard to get better and better,” added the World champion. 

Horne’s opponent in the final is Saleh Abazari of Iran. The number five in the World ranking prevailed in the All-Iran semi-final bout against team-mate Sajad Ganzjadeh. Abazari won the clash 1-0.  

JAPAN EARN FOUR MORE CHANCES FOR GOLD  

After qualifying three athletes for the finals in the first day of competition, Japanese karatekas continued on top form today and earned four more tickets to the finals. The successful performance of local athletes was confirmed in Male Kata since the title-deciding bout of the category will be an all-Japan clash. Grand Winner and current World champion Ryo Kiyuna continued showcasing outstanding level and aims at his fifth gold in five Karate 1-Premier League events this year after qualifying for his 27th consecutive final in international competitions. The Kata king from Japan topped the pool with “Anan Dai” kata and a score of 26.86. Kiyuna will fight for gold against team-mate Issei Shimbaba. The Japanese karateka who takes third place in WKF World ranking made it to his first final this year after dominating his pool and getting a score of 26.6 also with “Anan Dai” kata. 

Japan went to win another opportunity to finish the event with a title as one of the biggest Japanese stars Ryutaro Araga gave local fans reasons to celebrate with his successful performance in Male Kumite -84kg. The fifth-placed in WKF World ranking from Japan edged Azerbaijan’s Aykhan Mamayev 1-0 in semi-finals and qualified for his second final this year. His rival in the final is Iran’s Zabihollah Poorshab. The Iranian ace defeated World champion Ivan Kvesic of Croatia in semi-finals 2-1 to make it to his second final of the season after winning the continental title. 

The last category of the day also brought joy to local fans as Ayumi Uekusa also took the flag of the organising country to the finals. The popular Japanese karateka produced a hard-fought performance to qualify for the title-deciding bout. The current Grand Winner upset World champion Eleni Chatziliadou of Greece 1-0 in semi-finals thus using the home ground factor to avenge the defeat she suffered in the final of the World Championships against the Greek competitor. 

“The outstanding support from the stands reached my heart,” declared Ayumi Uekusa. “Nippon Budokan is the ‘mecca’ of martial arts, and I am fortunate to compete in this tournament. I hope to continue doing my best to further develop Karate in my country and around the world,” said the WKF World ranking leader. 

Ayumi Uekusa will fight for gold against Italy’s Clio Ferracuti. The Italian karateka who won gold at the Karate 1-Series A Montreal this year made it to her second final of Karate 1-Premier League this season following a 1-0 victory over Finland’s Titta Keinanen in semi-finals. 

BIG NAMES LEAD WAY TO FINALS 

Giana Lotfy of Egypt took the spotlight today with an electric performance on the tatamis of Nippon Budokan. The two-time World champion recovered from her early elimination at the African Games last month and produced a forceful demonstration of offensive Karate, with an accumulated score of 15-1 in four bouts, including a 5-0 victory over China’s Xiaoyan Yin in semi-finals.

“I am very happy to be in the final. I had very good fights today, and I am very glad to qualify for the final,” said the Egyptian fan favourite. “After finishing my studies, I am focusing on Karate and my only goal now is to qualify for Tokyo 2020,” added Lotfy. 

The other spot in the final was resolved with suspense. A protest after time-up changed the previously-declared result and gave the ticket to the last day to Leila Heurtault of France who ended winning the semi-final bout over Japan’s Mayumi Someya by 2-1. 

The tournament will conclude on Sunday with all the medal bouts. The last day of competition is scheduled to start at 9.30 local time. The finals are expected to begin at 14.30 (local time)

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