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Cunningham’s silver lining after Spanish scrap with Olympic champion

19th April 2021

Teenager Caden Cunningham secured his first senior medal and it took the Olympic champion to deny him gold at the Spanish Open in Alicante.

Cunningham from Huddersfield fought his way to a -87kg title shot against Rio Olympic gold medallist, Cheick Sallah Cisse.

The Ivory Coast star, who scored a famous last-second victory over Cunningham’s GB teammate, Lutalo Muhammad, in Brazil, came out on top 12-2.

But Cunningham was still proud of his performances. “To fight the Olympic Champion was fascinating and surreal,” he said.

“It felt weird fighting someone you watch on television. Cisse is a tank of an athlete and very tough to up against.

“But it was a great experience. It gives me confidence going forward because I know now, I am not too far behind these great athletes,” explained the 17-year-old Yorkshire prospect.

Cunningham also enjoyed the satisfaction of avenging his defeat at the recent European Championships by home favourite, Daneil Ros. Beaten 10-7 by the Spaniard in Bulgaria, Cunningham turned the tables 19-11.

“It feels amazing to get my first senior medal and with such experienced athletes in my weight, it is extra special for me in the current circumstances.”

Fellow Yorkshire fighter, Aaliyah Powell (a bronze medallist at the 2019 World Championships in Manchester) made her debut at -57kg, reaching the quarter-finals on her return to action.

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