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Sweat pours off Mahiro Takano as the 13-year-old karate black belt trades blows with a grown man almost twice her size, finishing with a blood-curdling roar, then a dainty bow. The petite schoolgirl is used to punching above her weight -- since taking up karate in kindergarten she has done much to boost the profile of the Japanese martial art, set to make its Olympic debut next year.Mahiro insists that her Tokyo Olympic heartbreak will make her stronger.Karate was left off the list of four sports recommended by 2024 Paris Olympic organizers that included surfing, skateboarding, sport climbing and break-dancing -- all since approved by the International Olympic Committee.Mahiro prefers the stylistic "kata" form of karate usually practiced solo, over "kumite," which pits fighters against one another.Kikuchi expressed sadness at karate's exclusion from the 2024 Paris Olympics, leaving it an uphill struggle to be reinstated for the 2028 Los Angeles Games.
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