Japan hot-shot Matsuda eyes Olympic surf gold
AFP, Kamogawa :
Just 16 and riding the crest of a wave, Japan's teenage surfing sensation Shino Matsuda has a secret weapon as she targets gold at next year's Tokyo Olympics - mum's rice balls.
Hot-shot Matsuda caught the surfing bug as a curious toddler and has emerged as a medal contender for the 2020 Olympic hosts after winning the Japan Open earlier this month.
"That has given me so much confidence," Japan's new surf queen told AFP in an interview.
"It also helped me figure out what I need to do to win tough competitions, so it was a good learning process. I love the rush of competing, but winning is awesome!"
Winning the Japan Open at the Tokyo 2020 surfing venue of Tsurigasaki - the second time she has won there - could give Matsuda a psychological edge when the sun-swept sport makes its Olympic debut.
Matsuda, who earned a spot at the world championships in Miyazaki later this year and a chance to secure a place in Japan's Olympic team, will also benefit from some good, old-fashioned home cuisine.
"Mum usually makes me 'onigiri' (rice balls) which I munch on for energy before I get in the water," said Matsuda, who has climbed to 39th in World Surf League's qualifying series.
"When I compete overseas and mum's not with me it can be a bit of a struggle," added the Japanese poster girl, born and raised in Chigasaki, an hour south of Tokyo on the Pacific coast.
"But the Olympics will be in Japan, where I feel most comfortable - I was so happy to win the Japan Open at next year's Olympic venue, that was big.