Azerbaijan’s Rafael Aghayev marked his first appearance of the World Karate Federation (WKF) Karate1-Premier League season by reaching the final of the men’s under 75 kilograms kumite event in Dubai.
The European champion justified his billing as one of the pre-competition favourites at the Al Ahli Club by dominating his four ties on the opening day of competition.
While Aghayev progressed comfortably to the final, world number two Luigi Busa saw his challenge come to a surprisingly early end, with the Italian losing to Turkey’s Erman Eltemur.
Iran’s Bahman Asgari ultimately progressed to the gold medal contest and is the only man preventing Aghayev from securing his first Premier League title in three-years.
There was a major surprise in the over 84kg men’s kumite event, with the reigning world champion Enes Erkan falling to defeat to Azerbaijan’s Shahin Atamov.
Despite the setback, Erkan rallied to secure a bronze medal, which preserved his record of six straight podium finishes at Premier League level
Spain’s Damian Quintero produced an impressive display in his pursuit of back-to-back titles in the men’s kata event, after beating World Championship silver medallist Ilja Smorguner on route to the final.
In the women’s competition, Spain’s Sandra Sanchez and Italy’s Sara Battaglia booked their places in tomorrow’s gold medal bout.
Battaglia’s team-mate Sara Cardin progressed to the under 55kg final, as she seeks to claim her first gold of the season.
The first edition of the Karate 1-Premier League to be held in Dubai saw Germany, Egypt, Russia, Malaysia and Turkey earn two bronze medals to top the current standings.
The finals will be broadcast live on the World Karate Federation’s YouTube channel here.