Sandra Sanchez

Karate training is not only for competition. It provides practitioners with many positive things that are not competition related… and we must preserve these values and principles. If we focus only on the supportive aspect of it, we’ll miss many of the important things it teaches.

Sandra Sanchez

Once told that she was too old to compete, Sandra Sanchez has become Spain’s most successful female competitor. She has won every major title available to her. She is Karate’s first Olympic Champion; a 2-time World Champion; a 6-time European Champion; and winner of 25 consecutive medals in the Karate1 Premier League.

Sandra Sanchez Jaime was born on 16 September 1981, in Talavera de la Reina, Spain she was the second of two children. Her brother Paco was two years older than her.

Growing up Sanchez’s parents had wanted her and her brother to do some extra-curricular activities. She was enrolled in ballet classes, while her brother was enrolled in Karate classes. However, she wanted to do whatever her brother was doing. She eventually began learning Karate at the age of four, alongside her brother.

Sanchez and her brother trained at the Goju-Ryu dojo of Javier Pineno. The dojo, located close to their home, eventually closed.

Finding that she loved Karate, by the 1990s Sanchez had found another dojo. She had also made her first forays into competing.

Around 1999 Sanchez enrolled at Madrid University, where she pursued a degree in Sports Science. After graduating from University she moved to Brisbane, Australia for work.

While in Australia, Sanchez found a dojo where she continued her Karate training`.

Sanchez had enjoyed her time in Australia. However, she missed her family. By 2010 she had returned to Spain. It was around this time that she decided that she wanted to focus on completing. Although a Goju-Ryu practitioner, she felt learning Shito–Ryu would help her.

Jesus del Moral was widely regarded as one of the best kata instructors in Spain. He was a coach to the likes of Damien Quintero.

Sanchez approached del Moral to be her coach. However, he turned her down. Like many other coaches, he felt that she was too old to become a Karate champion. Not being one to give up, she approached him several more times. Each time he turned her down.

Del Moral’s dojo was located in Madrid. Sanchez started driving from Talavera to Madrid every day to train at his dojo. She had to borrow money to put petrol in her car for her daily journey, not having much money.

Sanchez’s dedication to her training and her persistence eventually won del Moral over. He decided to become her coach. He created a tough training schedule for her and she was soon finding success in the tournaments she entered. In 2011 she won gold at the European University Championships in the Women’s Individual Kata event.

In 2013, at the age of 32, Sanchez earned her first selection to the Spanish National Team. This was at a time when most competitors of her age were contemplating retirement.

Sanchez had frequently competed at the Spanish National Championships, where she had won medals. However, for some reason, she had never been selected to represent Spain in the Individual or Team Kata.

In January 2014 Sanchez competed at the World Karate Federation (WKF) Karate1 Premier League in the Women’s Individual Kata event. She won her first-ever league medal. Between this time and February 2020, she earned a place in the Guinness book of record for winning 36 consecutive medals in the Karate1 Premier League.

In 2015 at the 50th European Karate Championships, held in Istanbul Turkey, she won gold in the Women’s Individual Kata. She followed this with success at the 1st European Games, where she defeated Sandy Scordo though in the final of the Women’s Individual Kata. She also competed in several open tournaments in Brazil, Salzburg, Egypt, and Dubai.

After competing at the 2015 Dubai Open Sanchez was offered a position teaching Karate in the United Arab Emirates. This was life-changing for her. She went from being in debt to having a generous salary, a paid apartment, and a car. She taught Karate two hours a day, which gave her enough time to train full-time.

2016 was a big year pretentious for Sanchez. She won another Individual Kata title at the 51st European Karate Championships, held in Montpellier, France. At the 23rd World Karate Championships, held in Linz, Austria, she won a bronze medal in the Women’s Individual Kata. In the Karate1 Premier League, she won the events held in Egypt and Dubai.

On 5 August 2016 Sanchez married her instructor, Jesus del Moral.

At the 2016 Rio Olympics, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) announced that Karate would be one of five new sports to be included in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Already part of the Pan-American Games since1995, it had been a dream of many competitors, past and present, that Karate would become an Olympic sport.

In 2017 Sanchez continued her competitive success. She had become one of the top competitors in the world. The diminutive Spanish lady was fast becoming one of the faces of World Karate. She was known for her strong and dynamic kata performances.

By the time of the 24th World Championships held in Madrid, Spain, Sanchez had won another two European Championship titles and a silver medal at the World Games behind her major rival, Kiyou Shimizu of Japan.

In 2019, Sanchez retained her Individual Kata title at the 2nd European Games held in Minsk, Belarus. Earlier that year she had won another European championship title. Later that year she competed at the World Beach Games held in Doha, Qatar. She won the Women’s Individual Kata event, which took place on a special section of the beach.

On 14 February 2020 Sanchez competed at the Karate1 Premier League event held in Dubai. She won her 35th consecutive medal in the league. The tournament was the last international competition before the Covid-19 Pandemic led to the suspension of all competitions worldwide.

On 18 March 2020, the WKF announced that Sanchez was one of the first athletes who had qualified to compete at the Olympics. However, on 24 March 2020, the Tokyo Olympic Organisers decided to postpone the Olympic Games to 23 July 2021, due to the global pandemic.

2021 was a massive year for Sanchez following the resumption of international competition. In May she won another European title at the championship held in Porec, Croatia.

On 5 August 2021, the Karate tournament at the Tokyo Olympic Games began. The Karate events took place at the Nippon Budokan, the home of Japanese martial arts. The first Karate medal contested at the Olympic Games was the Women’s Individual Kata.

Sanchez made it to the final where she faced rival Kiyou Shimizu. They were the two best female kata competitors in the world. At the time, Shimizu was a 2-time world champion and was the favourite to win the title at her home games.

Just shy of her 40th birthday and on her wedding anniversary, Sanchez defeated Shimizu to become Olympic champion. At 39 years and 323 days, she became Spain’s oldest Olympian, surpassing track cyclist, Joan Llaneras, who won Olympic gold aged 39 years and 91 days, at the 2008 Olympic Games. Sanchez was 15 years older than her youngest competitor. Her friend and teammate, Damien Quintero, lost his great rival Ryo Kiyuna of Japan in the Men’s Individual Kata final.

On 8 August Sanchez was given the honour of carrying the Spanish flag at the closing ceremony of the 2020 Tokyo Olympic games. Spain finished the Games with a total of 17 medals.

Unfortunately, the IOC announced that Karate would not feature at the 20 24 Paris Olympic Games. It would be replaced by Break Dancing. This is quite possibly the last time that Karate will feature at the Games.

In November 2021, Sanchez’s fantastic year continued. At the 25th World Championships held in Dubai UAE, she faced Ono Hikaru of Japan in the final of the Women’s Individual Kata, where she retained her title. The win marked her total domination of women’s kata and gave her a clean sweep of the major tournament held between 2018 to 2020. She has been world number one for a remarkable five years.

On 29 December 2021 Sanchez was presented with the Cantabria Award, at the Cantabrian Sports Gala, organised by the Sports Press Association of Cantabria. This was the first time that the award had been presented to an athlete not born in the Spanish region.

Sanchez’s major competition successes include:

  • Olympic Games – 1st place (2021)
  • World Karate Championships – 1st place (2018, 2021)
  • World Karate Championships – 3rd place (2016)
  • World Games – 1st place (2019)
  • World Beach Games – 1st place (2019)
  • European Games – 1st place (2015, 2019)
  • European Karate Championship – 1st place (2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2021)

Currently a 5th Dan, Sandra Sanchez is much more than a competitor. For her, competition is just one aspect of Karate. Her traditional Goju-Ryu roots are very important to her. Her successes have come from the discipline and perseverance she has learned in her Goju-Ryu training.

Sanchez has become a much-in-demand instructor. She holds training courses and seminars around the world. Her Olympics success will hopefully inspire a new generation of karateka.

Away from Karate, Sanchez loves to travel. She also has a large following on social media, frequently posting about her training routines.

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    • Barry Rodgers on May 25, 2022 at 12:58 am
    • Reply

    Great choice of a karateka to profile. An amazing champion. Endeavour. Perfection.

    • Anonymous on November 6, 2022 at 10:29 am
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    All my great respect for this respectable karateka spannish woman.

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