Ai TSUNODA ROUSTANT (ESP) was a force to be reckoned with as a cadet, dominating each tournament and took both the European and world title in 2019, confirming her presence at the top.
She then moved up to junior level and although her performances were notable in the -70kg category, she hadn’t quite made the transition that was imagined for her. In the Junior European Championships she managed a very respectable bronze medal, working her way back in to the fold, and here in Olbia she was back with full force.
In 2019, she went out in the first round to Madina TAIMAZOVA (RUS), the now Olympic bronze medallist, and after this loss she decided to go away and figure out who the ‘new Ai’ would be.
Following this she was out of competition for some time due to the pandemic and had time to reinvent and rediscover herself, what she needed to do to become the best once again and at the 2021 Junior World Championships she peaked.
Admittedly she was a little stressed in her first contest as she ceded a waza ari score and the last time this happened she was unable to make a comeback, but today she was calm, focussed, she didn’t make the small mistakes she’d made in the past. She stuck to the plan, her ‘1, 2, 3’ ands back in the game, giving her the confidence for the rest of her takeover in the -70kg category.
The hardest of course was against the Polish athlete and eventual bronze medallist, Katarzyna SOBIERAJSKA. Just over nine minutes of contest time went by in the quarter final and it was ne waza that saved Tsunoda and gave her the drive she needed for the final two bouts.
Tsunoda is of course relieved that all of her hard work has paid off and she can add yet another major title to her collection as the 19 year-old continues on her mission.
Author: Thea Cowen