Amateur Angles #6
‘Tis the season…
into the mainstream of ISF tournaments. The amateur sumo
community waits to see whether they will be forgiven after a year’s
ban, or whether they face an existence of appearing when and where they
are welcome, and never again representing their countries in future
As I write, the Oceania Sumo Championships will have just concluded in New Zealand’s capital, Wellington. The Oceania region has been struggling in the last few years, with only three active countries and a handful of athletes in each event. In 2007, all of the Oceania countries face the challenge of sending a team to Switzerland – in recent years having the Sumo World Championships in Japan has helped the bank balance, but going all the way to Europe will truly test their fundraising skills.
Australia will send their veterans, John Traill and Rowan Klein, to Wellington. These two athletes have faced the world’s best in recent years, and they had personal success in Osaka last year. However, both men must be nearing the end of their careers, and the numbers in Australia have dwindled since I first visited them in late 2003. The newly elected president of OzSumo, Katrina Watts (a name familiar to many from her days as an NHK sumo commentator), faces the challenge of promoting the sport in Australia and attracting new athletes to amateur sumo.
The host, New Zealand, will be relatively pleased with their year in 2006. Although the senior team was down in numbers from 2005, this was partly due to an injury sustained by Bill Perenara.
As the amateur sumo world wakes from the relative slumber of the
Northern Hemisphere winter, we can expect to see a lot more action in
the coming months. Yes, the ‘season’ for amateur sumo in most
countries is upon us for the next half-year or so. The Japanese
tournaments will begin coming thick and fast with the new university
year starting this month, and they culminate with the university
championships in November and the All-Japan championships in
December. Internationally, a handful of tournaments have been
held in Europe so far, the USA Open has just concluded, and the Oceania
Sumo Championships will have been decided as this article goes to
press. The climax of international amateur sumo will of course be
the Sumo World Championships in mid-November, which this year will be
held in the Swiss city of Lausanne, on the shores of Lake Geneva.
Such activities are exciting for those of us involved in, and who are fans of, amateur sumo. As such, this Amateur Angles takes a slightly different form from other editions: instead of an article about a single topic, I’ll be looking at what is ahead for this year (or what may have already transpired) and look to see where amateur sumo might be heading. You might like to look at this as a season preview, although I’ll not be presumptuous enough to actually pick winners for
|tournaments! Let the crystal ball-gazing begin!!
Over the Easter weekend, the US Open hit Los Angeles for what is the biggest amateur sumo event in North America each year. Athletes from all over the US were joined by an international cast from Bulgaria, Italy, Norway and Mongolia. On the dohyo, the competition was dominated by Mongolian athletes, echoing that country’s hold on professional sumo. The titles for all four of the men’s divisions, and the heavyweight and open weight women’s titles will be in Mongolian hand luggage on the return flight. These results, along with the showing they gave in Osaka last year, suggest that the Mongolian team will be a force to be reckoned with in Lausanne this year. However, the Mongolians should start their visa applications early, lest they miss out on attending as happened in Riesa, Germany in 2004.
After the upheaval of 2006, with the rise and sudden fall of the World Sumo League (WSL) in North America, it is interesting to note that WSL ‘renegade’ athletes, such as Bulgarian Petar Stoyanov and Norwegian Hans Borg, were competing in this event. As these athletes were banned from competing in the Sumo World Championships in 2006 by the International Sumo Federation (ISF), it remains to be seen if they will be allowed