Action got underway today at the 2016 Karate World Championships ©WKF

World number 21 Sarah Sayed upset the odds here on the opening day of the Karate World Championships by qualifying for the women’s kata final.

The young Egyptian was not expected to be among the candidates for glory in the Austrian city having not made it onto a podium at a major international event since 2014.

However, a 3-2 victory over Italy’s Viviana Bottaro in a tight semi-final bout set up a meeting with reigning world champion Kiyou Shimizu of Japan on Saturday (October 29).

"It is the first time in the history of Egyptian karate that a female has reached the kata final, so of course I am very happy," said Sayed.

"I made a lot of sacrifices to be here and at the end of the day, all that I did was worth it.

"I am very happy with how people reacted to my victories and how great it was to make my country so proud.

"Kiyou Shimizu is a very well-respected competitor, but I came here to be first."

Shimizu gave herself the chance of successfully defending her crown by overcoming world number one Sandra Sánchez of Spain.

Sánchez, the winner of the 2016 Karate 1-Premier League, performed strongly but was unable to prevent Shimizu from reaching her second successive final.

Home favourite Alisa Buchinger made it to the final of the women's kumite under 68kg division ©WKF
Home favourite Alisa Buchinger made it to the final of the women's kumite under 68kg division ©WKF

In the men’s kata competition, world number one Damian Quintero of Spain defeated 2014 silver medallist Ilja Smorguner of Germany and Egypt’s Ahmed Ashraf Shawky en route to qualifying for his first World Championships final.

Awaiting the European champion in the final is defending champion Ryo Kiyuna of Japan, who defeated two-time world champion Antonio Díaz of Venezuela on a split decision.

Japan’s success continued in kumite as Ryutaro Araga qualified for his first World Championships final by beating Venezuela’s Cesar Herrera in the last four of the men’s under 84 kilograms competition.

Standing between Araga and the gold medal is world number five Aykhan Mamayev of Azerbaijan, who shocked world champion Gogita Arkania of Georgia before confirming his place in the final with victory over France’s Kenji Grillon.

Also representing Japan in a final on Saturday will be Ayumi Uekusa after she overcame Iran’s Hamideh Abbasali to reach the all-important match in the women’s over 68kg category.

Uekusa’s opponent in the final will be Greece’s Eleni Chatziliadou, who made it through to the title-deciding bout in only her second appearance at a major international competition.

The gold medal in the men’s over 84kg kumite will be decided between two young rising stars, Morocco’s Achraf Ouchen and Iran’s Sajad Ganjzadeh.

Ouchen, the 2015 World Junior, Cadet and Under-21 Championships gold medallist, reached the final by beating Belarus’ Andrei Grinevich.

Upcoming star Ganjzadeh, meanwhile, broke all forecasts and made it to the gold medal match with a win over Bosnia and Herzegovina’s Haris Sujkovic.

Azerbaijan's Rafael Aghayev (right) reached his seventh World Championships final ©WKF
Azerbaijan's Rafael Aghayev (right) reached his seventh World Championships final ©WKF

There was also reason for hosts Austria to celebrate with birthday girl Alisa Buchinger making it through to the women’s kumite under 68kg final.

The Salzburg-born athlete, who turned 24 years of age today, defeated Montenegro’s Marina Rakovic in the semi-final.

The other finalist is Denmark’s Katrine Petersen, who beat Norway’s Gitte Brunstad in the penultimate round to reach the second final of her career.

In the men’s under 75kg kumite competition, Azerbaijan’s Rafael Aghayev reached his seventh World Championships final.

The four-time gold medallist defeated Iran’s Aliasghar Asiabari in a fiercely-contested bout and will face Egypt’s Rahman Omar Abdel in the battle for top honours. 

Abdel, a two-time medallist during the 2016 Karate 1-Premier League season, upset 2014 silver medallist Luigi Busà of Italy in the semi-finals.

For a full run-down of results from today's action, see our Live Blog here.