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Student Yui Susaki Beats Odds to Represent Japan at Tokyo Olympics

Wrestling Club Athlete Triumphs at Asia Qualifying Tournament, Wins All Four Matches

Yui Susaki (4th year student at the School of Sports Sciences) has qualified to compete at the Tokyo Olympics. Photo taken November 17, 2019 at the Women’s Wrestling World Cup (Photo by Kyodo News)

“I refused to let this chance slip away”

Member of the Waseda University Wrestling Club, Yui Susaki (4th year student at the School of Sports Sciences), competed at the Tokyo Olympic Asia qualifying tournament in Almaty, Kazakhstan, held on April 10, and secured her spot to represent Japan at the Tokyo Olympics in the 50kg weight class.

Susaki dominated the competition, placing first among five athletes after winning all four matches without losing any points. “I was determined to win and advance to the Olympics. I was focused on each match,” said Susaki, after winning three consecutive matches 10 to 0, 11 to 0, and 10 to 0, respectively. At this point, Susaki had entered the top 2 and thereby secured her spot to represent Japan at the Olympics in the 50kg weight class.

“I had already come this far, and so I refused to let this chance slip away. I mustered up the will and the matches went well,” said Susaki, who went on to win her final match 10 to 0 and place first at the tournament. “I approached the last match just wanting to enjoy the competition, and I genuinely did and was able to utilize the things I practiced.”

The harsh road to securing a spot at the Olympics

Women’s lightweight wrestling is grueling, and it’s often said that it’s harder to win in Japan than at the international level. Despite winning the World Championship in 2017 and 2018, Susaki lost to Yuki Irie (JSDF) at the 2019 World Championship Preliminary Rounds.

However, in an upset at the championship, where competitors can secure a spot at the Olympics if they win a medal, Irie was eliminated in the third round. As a result, she lost her spot to compete at the Tokyo Olympics in the women’s 50 kg weight class. The chance to represent Japan at the Olympics was still up for grabs.

At the Emperor’s Cup organized by the Japan Wrestling Federation in December 2019, Susaki advanced to the finals after defeating Rio gold medalist Eri Tosaka in the semi-finals. Her opponent in the finals was Irie, whom she eked out a victory against 2 to 1. By placing first, Susaki secured her spot at the Asia qualifying tournament, the results of which would determine her chance to compete at the Tokyo Olympics in the women’s 50kg weight class. However, due to the spread of COVID-19, the qualifiers, which were to be held in Kyrgyzstan in late February 2020, were delayed. They would eventually be held one year later in Kazakhstan.

The final match against a Mongolian wrestler, where Susaki cemented her undefeated performance at the tournament

“With pride as a Waseda student”

Susaki’s father and sister were members of Waseda’s Wrestling Club. Before departing to Kazakhstan, Susaki imparted a powerful message: “With pride as a Waseda student, I will come home after winning at the Asia qualifying tournament and securing my spot at the Tokyo Olympics.” Needless to say, Susaki followed through on her declaration.

“It was a long and tough road to get here, but now that I’ve made it to the starting line of the Tokyo Olympics, I’m determined to win a gold medal,” the enthusiastic Susaki said. Waseda University will continue to cheer Sasaki on as she competes for the gold medal.

Quotes are taken from the United World Wrestling (UWW) YouTube channel

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