Victory Defines Strength, Akari Fujinami’s Undefeated Journey | FRIDAY DIGITAL

Victory Defines Strength, Akari Fujinami’s Undefeated Journey

Winning 133 consecutive matches, surpassing Saori Yoshida! The legend of "Shin, the strongest female primate" will begin this summer.

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Even though she competes for dominance in wrestling by weight class, asking a woman about her weight might be off-limits. However, unlike the muscular figure seen in a singlet on the mat, Akari Fujinami (20), the queen of the 53 kg weight class, looked surprisingly slim in a polo shirt. She maintains a disciplined routine to keep her weight at 59 kg. Yet, the struggles of dropping 6 kg by the morning of the Paris Olympics match day (August 7th) are beyond measure.

Born in Yokkaichi City, Mie Prefecture in 2003, she started wrestling influenced by her father, Shunichi, who was a candidate for the Seoul Olympics in 1988.

“I start cutting weight about a month before the match day, and naturally get into the zone where hunger doesn’t bother me. Before defeating the opponent, I have to conquer myself first.”


From Yokkaichi City, Mie Prefecture, Fujinami started her athletic journey at the age of four in the “Inabe Wrestling Club” run by her father, Shunichi. Their mentor-student relationship has continued throughout her time as a third-year student at Nippon Sport Science University.


“Though there were times when training was tough, I never once thought about quitting wrestling. My father has never been a scary figure. Since I was little, the Olympics have been a dream, and I watched the London (2012) and Rio (2016) Games thinking, ‘Someday, I want to stand on this stage too.’ But during the Tokyo Games three years ago, I couldn’t participate due to age restrictions, which was disappointing. I’ve been determined to win in Paris ever since.” 


She excels in sharp, high-speed tackles, and her strong defensive skills prevent opponents from scoring easily. One might think she was naturally gifted with exceptional athleticism.


“But, I can’t play ball games, and I’m not fast either. Wrestling is what I love more than anyone, and I’ve put more effort into this sport than anyone else, and I think that’s why I’ve been able to achieve results. Wrestling’s appeal lies in its pure competition where there are no tools, nowhere to grab, just pure human-to-human battle. It’s not about being strong or working hard to win. The simple fact is that the winner is strong. That’s what makes it interesting.”


From her second year of junior high to the present, she remains undefeated in official matches, extending her winning streak to “133,” surpassing the “119” streak of Saori Yoshida, who won three consecutive Olympics and is hailed as the strongest female primate.


“I don’t obsess over records myself. As I pursue my own goals, the records have naturally followed. However, extending the winning streak can bring attention to wrestling. Fear of losing? I haven’t felt that yet.” 


In March this year, she suffered a major injury, dislocating her left elbow during sparring. She opted for surgery to heal.


“When I got injured, I was anxious and unsure what to do, but my recovery has been faster than I expected. I’ll soon resume sparring. Mentally, I’m stable and focused solely on winning a gold medal at the Olympics.”


With just over two months until the Olympics, her parents have moved to support her in Tokyo, where she also receives coaching from Kaori Icho, who achieved four consecutive Olympic victories at Nippon Sport Science University.


“Someday, when I feel I’ve completed my wrestling journey, I plan to retire and become a coach. Of course, I also want to find happiness as a woman.”


Undoubtedly, at 20 years old, that day seems like a distant future for Fujinami.

In interviews, she displays a calm expression, but in matches, she fixes her opponent with a lion-like gaze aimed at conquering them.

From theJune7 and 14, 2024 issue of FRIDAY

  • PHOTO Sachiko Yasutaka

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