Russia match Japan gold-for-gold as sumo continues drive for international recognition at SportAccord World Combat Games

Saturday, 19 October 2013
By Duncan Mackay at the SKK Peterburgskly in St Petersburg

Sumo has proved a popular sport at the World Combat Games in St PetersburgOctober 19 - Sumo, a sport that will always be closely identified with Japan, had the opportunity to shine on the international stage on the second day of the SportAccord World Combat Games here today.

It was no surprise that Japan won four of the gold medals on offer but they were matched by their Russian hosts, who also claimed four victories before an enthusiastic crowd in an arena which has previously hosted concerts by the likes of Lady Gaga and Justin Bieber.

Traditionally, non-Japanese rarely took part or had any chance to experience the sport before a campaign was launched more than 20 years ago to help try to make the sport popular internationally.  

Japan organised an international sumo competition in 1992, inviting athletes from all over the world to try the sport.

Sumo has been adapted to make it more popular internationally but retains most of the traditions of the sport whose origins are deeply rooted in JapanSumo has been adapted to make it more popular internationally but retains most of the traditions of the sport whose origins are deeply rooted in Japan

The popularised form of sumo is a simplified version of the traditional Japanese wrestling.

In Japan, women are not allowed to take part in professional sumo and wrestlers have strict restrictions in dressing.

But nowadays, even in Japan girls can even go to high school or college on a sumo scholarship.

There are also women-only tournaments, like the All-Japan Women's Sumo Championships.

At international level women have always enjoyed parity with their male counterparts.

At international level, women are just as welcome to compete in sumo as the menAt international level, women are just as welcome to compete in sumo as the men

The sport's dream of one day appearing on the Olympic programme may still seem many years away but that has not prevented the drive to help popularise sumo outside Japan, which is being led by Hidetoshi Tanaka, President of the International Sumo Federation.

"There are many countries which have achieved a very good level," he said.

"Not only these wonderful national teams that are participating at this World Combat Games, but also other ones.

"The level of the tournament is good.

"The more countries involved in sumo the better.

"There are many countries taking part in this tournament, but not all the countries where sumo is practiced are represented here."

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