Tsunoda loves her armlocks

Japan’s Natsumi Tsunoda started off the day ranked No. 28 among the players competing in the 2021 Hungary World Championships. So, she was far from the favorite.

Tsunoda’s judo is a bit unusual for a Japanese. Most Japanese female players opt for osaekomi turnovers when doing newaza. But Tsunoda prefers juji-gatame, which she used to great effect against her first three opponents.

The other technique that she likes is a traditional tomoe-nage. This is seldom seen in competition, where yoko-tomoe-nage is more common. She had used tomoe-nage in her opening match, against Milica Nikolic of Serbia, before finishing her off with juji-gatame. It was also with tomoe-nage that she defeated the top favorite, Distria Krasniqi of Kosovo, in the semifinal. In fact, she threw Krasniqi twice with this technique for waza-ari-awasete-ippon.

In the final, against her compatriot Wakana Koga, she used tomoe-nage to get the first score. Later, she turned Koga over with a sumi-gaeshi while Koga was on the ground, and proceeded to attack her with juji-gatame. The referee called matte, asked for a video review, and determined that the sumi-gaeshi was in fact a score. And with that, Tsunoda got waza-ari-awasete ippon, and the gold medal.

Tsunoda, already 28 years old, had gotten a -52kg silver medal at the 2017 Budapest World Championships (at -52kg). In her second attempt, also in Budapest but at -48kg, she finally got the top prize.