Inside news
Natsumi Tsunoda defends her red backpatch stonecold

Natsumi Tsunoda defends her red backpatch stonecold

7 May 2023 19:30
Callum MacLennan and JudoInside
JudoHeroes & IJF Media / Copyright:

Current, stable and three-time world champion Natsumi Tsunoda, has an exceptional record on the IJF World Judo Tour, medalling in every one of her last 14 Tour events. Thus, unsurprisingly, she breezed through to the final on day 1 in Doha, making light work of her opposition using her trademark tomoe-nage and juji-gatame attacks.

In the final French Shirine Boukli came firing on all cylinders but a failed sumi-gaeshi attempt landed her in osae-komi in the opening seconds. Like the great magicians of old, though, she performed two miraculous escapes to keep her gold medal hopes alive. This second chance was short-lived however, as Tsunoda began to launch her tokui-waza and like most of her other opponents today, sent Boukli circling through the air, scoring a beautiful ippon and earning a third consecutive world title. Her red backpatch is going nowhere.

In Tsunoda’s first match against Laborde (USA), she smoothly turned her opponent on the ground using yoko-gaeshi, before transitioning to juji-gatame. Next up, in round 3 was last year’s world silver medallist Menz (GER), against whom Tsunoda wasted no time in sliding under her opponent, throwing first with sumi-gaeshi and later with that effortless tomoe-nage.

Not many surprises as 7 of the top 8 players making their way to the quarter-final stages, crushing many spirited challenges from their lower-ranked opposition. In the quarter-final, another world medallist from last year appeared in the form of Scutto (ITA), who had confidently dispatched multiple WJT medallists Lapuerta Comas (ESP) and Stangar (SLO) in the earlier rounds. But the 21-year-old Italian was still no match for the Japanese star who threw again with tomoe-nage before latching onto an outstretched arm to finish with juji-gatame once more.

Awaiting in the semi-final was the star of the U48kg category in 2023 so far, France’s Blandine Pont. Ahead of Doha, the Frenchwoman was undefeated this year, winning 3 grand slams back-to-back, all without conceding a single score. If anyone could stop the unstoppable charge of Tsunoda to the final, it was her. However, despite a valiant effort on Pont’s part, she too succumbed to the Japanese’s tomoe-nage, going down by waza-ari midway through the contest. Tsunoda finished the contest in the dying seconds, reversing Pont on the floor and then submitting her with okuri-eri-jime. Thus, yet another willing challenger was overcome.

All hope was not lost for the French though, as their other entrant in this category was none other than the current world number 1, Shirine Boukli, herself on similarly impressive form, having won both the Baku Grand Slam and the Jerusalem World Masters at the end of 2022. In a similar fashion to her Japanese counterpart, she swept aside the challenges of Martinez Abelenda (ESP) and Esposito (MLT) in her first two contests using yoko-guruma and the first of several big o-goshi throws, respectively.

Her quarter-final opponent was the other Japanese player in the weight class, Wakana Koga (JPN), whom Boukli got the better of in their last encounter in the final in Jerusalem. Today was no different, with Boukli scoring waza-ari with sumi-gaeshi, as in the previous contest, but Koga made Boukli work harder for it this time around, taking her into golden score. Boukli would then meet another top contender in world number 5 Abiba Abuzhakynova (KAZ) in the semi-final. With a slim 2-1 record over the Kazakh, Boukli had the egde and confidently threw her opponent twice in two minutes with two more massive hip throws. The dream final match-up had been confirmed. 

Despite the incredible competitiveness of the category, the bronze medal matches proved to be one-sided affairs. First, Koga and Pont faced off for the second time on the World Tour. Last time out, the Japanese overcame the Frenchwoman and history repeated itself in Doha where Koga threw cleanly with seoi-nage for waza-ari and followed this with a beautiful o-soto-gari for ippon to take her second world bronze medal.

Abuzhakynova and Scutto battled it out for the third time on the WJT, in the second bronze medal contest and Scutto joined Koga in winning a second world bronze medal, throwing the Kazakh for waza-ari inside 15 seconds and holding out for the win.

More judo info than you can analyse 24/7! Share your results with your judo network. Become an insider!