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Japan hot-shot eyes Olympic surf gold

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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.

Japanese pro surfer Shino Matsuda (Photo by CHARLY TRIBALLEAU / AFP)

Japanese pro surfer Shino Matsuda (Photo by CHARLY TRIBALLEAU / AFP)

“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. (Agence France-Presse)

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