Spain made an impressive start to the 2019 European Karate Championships with three of its athletes reaching finals in Guadalajara.
Damián Quintero and Sandra Sánchez Jaime qualified for the title-deciding bouts in the men’s and women’s kata events, respectively, while Laura Palacio moved to within one win of claiming the women’s kumite over-68 kilograms gold medal at the Pabellon Multiusos sports hall.
Sánchez Jaime excelled in her performance of "Papuren" kata, leading the final pool with a score of 27.64 points.
"Each final I get to play is different and this one is very special because it is in Guadalajara, where everything started for me," the world rankings leader said.
"It will also be my fifth continental final and my nephews will be here so it will be special because I want to dedicate it to them."
In a repeat of last year’s final in Novi Sad in Serbia, Sánchez Jaime will face Italy’s Viviana Bottaro.
The third-placed karateka in the world rankings produced an excellent "Papuren" kata, prevailing in the pool with a score of 26.94 points to qualify for her fifth continental final.
In men’s kata, Quintero proved too strong for his rivals and triumphed in his pool with 26.76 points with a rendition of "Suparinpei" kata.
As was the case last year, his opponent in the final will be Turkey’s Ali Sofuoğlu, who topped his pool with "Gojushiho Sho" kata and a score of 25.46 points.
The third golden opportunity for the home nation comes through Palacio, a 2018 European bronze medallist.
She beat Finland’s Titta Keinanen 2-0 in semi-finals to earn a clash for the gold medal against reigning world champion Eleni Chatziliadou of Greece.
Chatziliadou, 25, edged Ukraine’s Anastasiya Stepashko 2-1 to secure her place in a second consecutive continental final.
Another country performing well today was Turkey, who have a total of four finalists.
Joining Sofuoğlu in reaching a gold medal match were Uğur Aktaş in the men’s kumite under-84kg category, Merve Çoban in the women’s kumite under-61kg division and Tuba Yakan in the women’s under-55kg class.
Aktaş, a 2018 European bronze medallist, qualified for his final by defeating Montenegro’s Nikola Malović 5-3 in a rollercoaster of semi-final.
The other spot was taken by Belarus' Anton Isakau, who edged world champion Ivan Kvesić of Croatia 1-0 in the penultimate round to reach his first continental final.
Çoban made it through to her fight for a first European title after overcoming Ukraine’s Anita Serogina.
She will clash for the gold medal against Slovenia’s Tjasa Ristic, who produced one of the most outstanding semi-final victories with a 9-1 triumph over Slovakia’s Ingrida Suchankova.
Yakan, meanwhile, took one of her category's final spots after the 2017 European champion convincingly beat Anzhelika Terliuga of Ukraine 8-1.
Luxembourg's Jennifer Warling is the other finalist after her 2-1 win over Scotland’s Amy Connell.
First-class karatekas such as Germany’s Jonathan Horne and France’s Steven Dacosta also assumed the spotlight today.
Horne, the five-time European champion and reigning world champion, qualified for the men’s over-84kg kumite final after edging Azerbaijan's Asiman Gurbanli in the semi-finals by "Hantei" or decision.
The other final spot in the category went to Serbia’s Slobodan Bitević, a European champion in 2011 and 2015 and a silver medallist in 2008.
He qualified for his fourth European final by defeating Georgia's Gogita Arkania 1-0.
World champion Dacosta, meanwhile, overcame England’s Jordan Thomas 5-1 in men’s kumite under-67kg semi-finals as he aimed to recover the European title which he won for the last time in 2016.
His opponent in the final will be Montenegro’s Mario Hodzic, who made it through to his first continental gold medal match in senior competitions after beating Serbia's Stefan Josic 7-1.
The other finals will see Azerbaijan’s Rafael Aghayev face Italy’s Luigi Busà in the men’s kumite under-75kg, France’s Alizée Agier meet Switzerland’s Elena Quirici in the women’s kumite under-68kg, Austria’s Bettina Plank go up against France’s Sophia Bouderbane in the women’s kumite under-50kg and Italy’s Angelo Crescenzo do battle with Russia’s Evgeny Plakhutin in the men’s kumite under-60kg.
Action in Guadalajara is due to continue tomorrow with the team and Para-karate categories.
The Opening Ceremony will also take place.