As expected, Venezuelan kata star Antonio Diaz was among the top performers today as action began at the Pan American Karate Championships in Panama.
The 38-year-old, who has so far won 16 golds at the Championships including every men’s kata title since 2008, started his campaign at the Arena Roberto Duran Sports Hall by winning his pool with a score of 25.36 points.
It means he advances to yet another final, where he is scheduled to face Ariel Torres from the United States.
The Pan American Championships bronze medallist won his own pool with a score of 25.12 points, meaning he becomes the first US athlete at the tournament to be guaranteed a medal.
In total, the US made it into six finals and are guaranteed the gold medal in the women’s kumite under-68 kilograms division, where Cheryl Murphy is set to face teammate Skylar Lingl.
Murphy, a bronze medallist last year, beat Cuba’s Cirelys Martinez 3-0 in the semi-finals and Lingl saw off Mexico’s Sachiko Paulina Ramos 2-1 in her own last four tie.
The gold medal match will be Lingl’s first international final before she retires.
The male kumite under-75kg class was dominated by Thomas Scott, another US athlete, who qualified for a final.
The defending champion won all his matches comfortably, including a 6-1 triumph against Argentina’s Julio Ichiki in the semi-finals.
He is now due to face Jamaica’s Alton Brown, who pulled off a surprise win over Colombia’s Jose Enrique Martinez to reach his first gold medal bout for over 15 years.
In the women’s kata, Sakura Kokumai from the US and Maria Dimitrova from the Dominican Republic will go head-to-head for the gold medal yet again.
For the ninth year in a row they have both qualified for the final after winning their pools.
Dimitrova has not won the title since 2014.
Early round action is due to continue tomorrow.