Kumite, the sparring form of karate, is all about precision, technique, and control. Unlike other fighting sports, where the goal is to knock your opponent’s head off, the goal in kumite is not to beat up the other guy or even hit them as hard as you can. As my blog pal Kalyn explained last week while introducing the new Olympic sport, in karate “if you punch too hard you can get disqualified.”
Indeed, that’s exactly what happened in Saturday’s men’s +75kg kumite final between Saudi Arabia’s Tareg Hamedi and Iran’s Sajad Ganjzadeh. Hamedi was dominant from the beginning and, in the end, too dominant. About five minutes into the match, which you can watch in full here (starting around 4:15:50), Hamedi levels a kick at Ganjzadeh’s head. Ganjzadeh falls like a tree and Hamedi starts to celebrate. But after Ganjzadeh is carried off on a stretcher, the judges deliberate and decide that Hamedi kicked too hard and was therefore disqualified, handing the first-ever gold medal in the event to the guy flat on his back.
Both athletes returned for the medal ceremony. Per Reuters, Hamedi said he was “unhappy” with the judge’s decision but pleased with how he performed. For his part, Ganjzadeh also had conflicting feelings about his victory.
“I’m happy about the gold medal but I’m sad that I had to win it like this,” he said.