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Karate 1-Premier League Tokyo concludes with historic final day at Nippon Budokan


Karate heroes claimed the gold medals at the Karate 1-Premier League Tokyo as the memorable fifth stop of Karate’s biggest international events concluded in the capital of Japan. A fully-packed Nippon Budokan sports hall hosted the spectacular tournament with less than one year to go to the debut of the sport in the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020. In front of over 14.000 spectators, the best karatekas in the world gave a thrilling showcase of the emotions and sporting spirit that will be presented at the Karate Olympic competition in less than one year. 


The final of Female Kata was an outstanding display of the excitement of high-level Karate featuring two of the most dominating athletes of the sport nowadays. The quest to gold had Kiyou Shimizu of Japan and Sandra Sanchez of Spain as big stars, in yet another episode of the clash of the two karatekas for the supremacy of the category. Demonstrating the extreme intensity that prevails in the category, the title was decided with a heart-wrenching tie-breaker. For the first time in Karate 1-Premier League, the two competitors got the same score in the final (27.68) after executing both “Chatanyara Kushanku” kata.

A new kata had to be done to break the tie. Grand Winner Sandra Sanchez performed “Suparinpei” kata and got a score of 27.48 while World Championships runner-up Kiyou Shimizu performed “Oyadomari No Passai” kata with a result of 27.74 points, thus the title stayed at home in Japan. 

Kiyou Shimizu said: “When I stepped into the tatami, I had the same feeling I got at the World Championships. At the event in Madrid, both of us did “Chantanyara Kushanku”, and Sandra was declared the winner. Today it was the first time that we both did the same kata since Madrid, but the result was different.” 

“It was great to have such fantastic support from the stands. The cheering of all the spectators gave me wings. It also gave me the responsibility to do my best to fulfill their expectations. Today we did two katas, it was like doing two finals. It was a fantastic experience ahead of the Olympic Games,” added the local star who could avenge the defeat she suffered in Madrid at the World Championships. 

In the all-Japan final of Male Kata, Ryo Kiyuna extended his domination of the category with another gold medal. It is the fifth gold in five Karate 1-Premier League events this year and the 28th consecutive title for the Grand Winner and current World champion. Ryo Kiyuna got a score of 28.38 with “Ohan Dai” kata for 27.02 points of silver medallist and team-mate Issei Shimbaba


Darkhan Assadilov of Kazakhstan produced one of the most impressive performances of the day as he defeated World champion Angelo Crescenzo of Italy in the final of Male Kumite -60kg by an impressive 6-0. The current World title-holder from Italy could not confront Assadilov who confirmed his status as one of the athletes on best form with his fourth gold medal in five Karate 1-Premier League events. 

Meanwhile, Giana Lotfy of Egypt became one of the big names of the day after her victory in Female Kumite -61kg. It was a hard-fought triumph for the two-time World champion from Egypt who demonstrated to have left behind the disappointment of her early defeat at the African Games barely one month ago. Lotfy edged France’s Leila Heurtault in the final today by 4-3. 

Giana Lotfy said: “The Olympic Games will be held here at Nippon Budokan and I hope that I will also win gold then. I have been working very hard to be where I am right now, and I am very happy that I could win the gold medal today.” 

With her fourth title in five Karate 1-Premier League tournaments, Ukraine’s Anzhelika Terliuga continued in outstanding form. The World ranking leader from Ukraine got one more crown this season after beating Chinese Taipei’s Tzu-Yun Wen in the final of Female Kumite -55kg (3-1). It is the sixth medal for Terliuga this year. 


Grand Winner Jonathan Horne of German was - together with Ryo Kiyuna and Ayumi Uekusa - the only current owner of the karate-gi with the golden embroidery who won the title today. In the final of Male Kumite +84kg, the fierce competitor from Germany who is the defending World champion and WKF World ranking leader edged Saleh Abazari of Iran with a slim 1-0 triumph. It is the second crown for Horne this season after his victory at the European Championships. 

Jonathan Horne said: “I feel great. My performance today was not the best, but the important thing is that I got to win gold. I have to get better and I hope that I will improve for the next event.” 

After almost a year away from the top of the podium of major international events, World champion Irina Zaretska of Azerbaijan won her first gold medal since her victory at Karate’s biggest stage in Madrid last year. In the final of Female Kumite -68kg, the World title-holder from Azerbaijan defeated Grand Winner Alizee Agier of France by 3-0. 

Irina Zaretska said: “I am so happy because I finally got to win gold after I don’t know how long. This year I could only win two silver medals (in Dubai and Istanbul) so I am happy that I finally won today. During the match, I saw my opponent’s mistakes, and fortunately I did my best to take advantage of this situation.” 


Japan finished the day with a total of eight gold medals. Hiroto Gomyo won the first crown in Kumite for hosts after defeating Grand Winner Burak Uygur of Turkey in the final of Male Kumite -67kg. It was a tactical bout that ended with a 2-0 victory for the representative of the organising country. 

Much to the celebration of his ample number of fans on the stands, Ken Nishimura used the support from the audience and his status as Japan’s biggest raising star to become champion of Male Kumite -75kg. In one of the highlights of the day, the popular Japanese karateka defeated five-time World champion Rafael Aghayev of Azerbaijan. The gripping final bout went scoreless at time-up, and Nishimura was declared the winner by “Hantei” or decision. 

Ken Nishimura said: “This victory was more meaningful to me than other competitions that I won in other countries. Of course, I am now more well-known in Japan that I was last year but other team-mates are more popular among Japanese fans than me such as Ryo Kiyuna, Kiyou Shimizu, Ryutaro Araga… they all became World champions, and I am not there yet. But with any luck, in the future, I will be World champion, so I can become more famous in Japan and all around the world.” 

Exactly one year later, Ryutaro Araga reached the top of the podium of a major international event again. The Japanese karateka who got gold for the last time at the 2018 Karate 1-Premier League in September last year prevailed in Male Kumite -84kg after beating Zabihollah Poorshab of Iran by 2-1. 

The last of the titles for hosts in individual Kumite categories was claimed by Ayumi Uekusa. The current Grand Winner showed resilience to claim a celebrated victory in Female Kumite +68kg. The current World Championships runner-up from Japan presented a forceful performance in the title-deciding bout and defeated Clio Ferracuti of Italy by 5-0. 

Ayumi Uekusa said: “It was great that I was able to transfer all the attention of the people from the stands to my performance today. I have the firm resolution of getting the same medal that I got today in one year at the Olympic Games. I have been struggling with pressure lately but I believe in myself, I believe in my possibilities and hopefully, I will be able to succeed next year here.” 

The rest of the categories at stake finished with Iran’s Sara Bahmanyar’s triumph over Alexandra Recchia of France in Female Kumite -50kg (5-1) and with the victories of the two Japanese sides in the all-Japan finals of Male Team Kumite and Female Team Kumite. 

The Karate 1-Premier League moves now to Moscow (Russia) where the sixth stop of the series of events will take place from October 4 to 6. 

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