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By Chang-Ran Kim

CHIBA, Japan (Reuters) – Britain’s Lauren Williams overpowered her toughest rival on Monday to reach the final in taekwondo’s welterweight category, looking focused and determined ahead of the Olympic gold medal match against Croatia’s Matea Jelic.

Williams’s first fight lasted just 49 seconds, at the end of which her Tongan opponent Malia Paseka was down 11-0 and unable to continue after taking a ferocious spinning kick to the head, forcing the referee to stop the match.

In the semi-final, Williams, 22, stayed light on her feet, repeatedly stretching her legs skyward to land four 3-point kicks to the head of Ivory Coast’s Ruth Gbagbi, who struggled to return the attacks.

In the men’s -80kg category, defending champion Cheick Sallah Cisse lost his first match to Morocco’s Achraf Mahboubi. Cisse had caused a big upset at the 2016 Games in Rio, producing a last-second spin-kick against Briton Lutalo Muhammad to win Ivory Coast’s first gold medal.

“I feel destroyed. I didn’t expect that at all,” he said.

“I think there was just too much pressure.”

The men’s final will be between Maksim Khramtcov for the Russian Olympic Committee and Jordan’s Saleh Elsharabaty.

Elsharabaty’s coach led Ahmad Abughaush to gold in Rio, Jordan’s first Olympic medal.

(Reporting by Chang-Ran Kim, editing by Ed Osmond)

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