Yui Susaki Aims for Four Consecutive Olympic Victories in Women’s 50 kg Wrestling | FRIDAY DIGITAL

Yui Susaki Aims for Four Consecutive Olympic Victories in Women’s 50 kg Wrestling

The absolute queen of Japan, who completely won the Tokyo Olympics, declared a gold medal after training alone in the "holy land" of Dagestan!

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Before every major tournament, she always visits Kanda Shrine and pledges victory in front of the gods. She brings lucky charms to boost her luck in matches.

In early May, about three months before the Paris Olympics, Yui Susaki, the representative for women’s 50 kg wrestling, traveled alone to the southern Russian Republic of Dagestan. The queen expected to win another gold medal following the Tokyo Olympics three years ago, in a place unfamiliar to most Japanese, especially going to Russia, causing concern from her company, Kitz. Nevertheless, the 24-year-old had no doubts.

“For me, Dagestan is a holy land of wrestling. Olympic champions have been born here, and it’s strong in MMA (Mixed Martial Arts), with fighters like Khabib Nurmagomedov (35), who retired undefeated from UFC. Before the Olympics, I wanted to visit such a powerhouse of combat sports,” she said.

She decided on the pilgrimage just before, booking her flight three days before departure and hurriedly obtaining a visa. Above all, despite the dangers and the thought of going to an unusual place.

“Of course, I was scared, but more than that, I wanted to learn how to confront wrestling, mental strength, and fighting methods. Even though we do the same wrestling, Japan focuses on individual training and sparring, while in Dagestan, overall practice is centered around each type of tackle. It was incredibly stimulating.”

Susaki, who arrived in the country and visited a wrestling school for two weeks, reflected with a carefree smile, saying, “I found the secret of strength.”


“Everyone welcomed me kindly, but daily life was infused with a sense of constant battle. Some wrestlers even practiced against bears. It felt like I was instilled with the essence of wrestling, or maybe a spirit of hunger. As someone inherently from a warrior nation (laughs), it was a wonderful country where fighting is just a part of life.”

On the day of the interview, Susaki was scheduled to be photographed before practicing at Waseda University’s wrestling arena, but he was nowhere to be seen. Concerned, I went to the underground wrestling arena and found him already changed into training gear, skipping rope. 

When Susaki arrived at the training ground, his mind switched into combat mode, and he was so focused that his plans completely slipped his mind. After finishing practice, Susaki said in an interview:

“Nowadays, my life revolves around wrestling in every way. Even my hobbies, like saunas, are for recovery purposes. I make sure to stay focused so I can have a strong and productive week starting the next day. But living each day solely for wrestling isn’t a burden at all. Encountering a sport that I can be so passionate about makes me think how happy my life is.”

If that day, when I was in first grade, my father, a Waseda University wrestling team alumnus, hadn’t recommended wrestling to me, I wonder what kind of life I’d be living now, Susaki responded to that question like this:


“I think I’d still be doing wrestling. I can’t imagine a life without it.”


She was well aware of the number of days until the Paris Olympics competition day. 

“Starting today, there are 69 days left until the first match day (August 6). I can’t wait for the Paris Olympics; I’m eager for the day when I can win the gold medal. On that day, I want to perform ideally, utilizing everything I’ve practiced without giving away any points and overwhelming my opponent.”

Since 2019, Susaki has not tasted defeat and holds a streak of 94 consecutive wins against foreign competitors. Athletes use defeats as nourishment, find challenges, and grow. Continuing to win while striving for greater growth and strength is undoubtedly more challenging than one might imagine.

“I simply want to win, and to achieve that, I have to become stronger. The strong desire to become even stronger and the deep aspiration to win a gold medal in Paris drive me to improve myself. In reality, I still have a lot to learn as an athlete, and every day brings new discoveries and challenges. I want to reach the pinnacle and become the strongest version of myself, Yui Susaki.”

During the Tokyo Olympics, my first Games, I had the honor of being the flag bearer alongside Rui Hachimura (26) at the opening ceremony. If I get to participate in a second Olympics, perhaps I’ll have more mental and physical composure.

“What exactly is composure, though? (laughs) I think being able to sense the atmosphere of the Olympics, which was an unknown world last time, is crucial. Tokyo was held without spectators, but Paris will see the return of the audience. It might feel like a completely different experience. Nonetheless, if I approach it with a strong mindset and do what I need to do, I believe the results will come.”

In women’s wrestling, Kaori Icho (39) achieved four consecutive Olympic gold medals, and “The Strongest Woman in Primates,” Saori Yoshida (41), secured three consecutive victories. Susaki also aims to approach such legends.


“I am not only aiming for the Los Angeles Games (in four years), but also the Brisbane Games (in ’32). My ultimate goal is four consecutive victories. Considering I’ve been wrestling for 17 years, another eight years is nothing. I want to dedicate my life to striving for my ultimate goal.”


Paris is just a stepping stone. There’s no room for complacency for someone from the strongest warrior nation.

Currently ranked first in the UWW (United World Wrestling) world rankings, Susaki aims for a gold medal at the Paris Olympics without conceding any points throughout all matches.
Hailing from Matsudo City, Chiba Prefecture, she stands at 153 cm tall. On this particular day, there were moments during practice where she faced male athletes who had a physical advantage over her.

From the June 21, 2024 issue of FRIDAY

  • Interview and text by Yuji Yanagawa (non-fiction writer) PHOTO Sachiko Yasutaka

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