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Tokyo Olympics: Iran wins gold in final karate bout after Saudi opponent is disqualified

Iran's Sajad Ganjzadeh takes home gold despite being carried off on stretcher after Saudi Arabian Tareg Hamedi is disqualified for unchecked high-kick
Tareg Hamedi of Saudi Arabia looks on as Sajad Ganjzadeh of Iran receives medical attention during their match (Reuters/Ivan Alvarado)

Iran's Sajad Ganjzadeh won a gold Olympic medal in the final bout of karate's historic debut at the Tokyo games after Saudi Arabian Tareg Hamedi was disqualified for an unchecked attack. 

Ganjzadeh had fallen behind 4-1 before Hamedi high-kicked him in the neck, leaving the Iranian motionless barely a minute into the match and bringing the bout to an abrupt end. Medics rushed to Ganjzadeh's side, placing an oxygen mask on the Iranian and removing him on a stretcher.

'I'm happy about the gold medal but I'm sad that I had to win it like this'

-Sajad Ganjzadeh, Iran gold medallists, Karate, Men’s +75kg

Hamedi, at first under the impression that he had won the match, celebrated for several minutes before being informed -  after discussion among the officials on the sidelines - that it had been called for Ganjzadeh.

Hamedi was officially disqualified for an unchecked attack, which is not allowed under karate's Olympic rules.

'I think I played well'

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Ganjzadeh later returned for the medal ceremony, walking normally. Both he and Hamedi were expressionless as they stepped up to the podium and collected their medals.

They appeared to harbour no hard feelings towards each other, however, as they hugged and posed for photographs together.

"I'm happy about the gold medal but I'm sad that I had to win it like this," Ganjzadeh told a news conference.

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Iran has won three gold medals, two silver and two bronze at the Tokyo games so far.

Hamedi, who left the mat in tears, later seemed to take the loss in stride, saying he was unhappy with the judge's decision but satisfied with how he fought. 

"If you ask me if I agree or not, I disagree, of course, because I love the gold medal," Hamedi said following the match. "But I am satisfied with the level of performance I gave, and I accept their decision. I don't have any objection. I think I played well. That's all I can say."

Hamedi's  silver medal is Saudi Arabia’s second-ever. The kingdom has never taken home gold.

Turkey's Ugur Aktas and Japan's Ryutaro Araga took the bronze medals in the men's +75kg kumite category.

The women's gold medal in the +61kg category went to Egypt's Feryal Abdelaziz, who won only her country's second gold medal since 1948 by beating Azerbaijan's Iryna Zaretska in the final. Abdelaziz, 22, also became the first Egyptian woman to win a gold Olympic medal. 

More karate injuries

Ganjzadeh was the second karate-ka on Saturday to be carried away on a stretcher.

Germany's gold-medal hopeful Jonathan Horne suffered a mid-bout injury during the elimination round that left him writhing and screaming in agony and unable to rise from the mat.

The German Olympic Sports Confederation press officer Michael Schirp said Horne had suffered an elbow injury that would be examined further in hospital. The extent of the damage was still unknown, he said.

Horne, the reigning world champion in the +84kg class, had 20 seconds left in his match.

Earlier in the women's +61kg category contest, Italian Silvia Semeraro's head was bandaged up while venue staff replaced the mat panels stained with her blood.

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