MB – What about the women’s game? What does the future hold in store for the ladies on the dohyo and have you ever competed in the women’s competition yourself?
KW – Sumo is a sport well-
suited to women. It’s a combative sport without being violent. It’s takes balance, flexibility and strategy, as well as physical strength, so, women can also excel. If I hadn’t hurt my knee in a skiing accident, I would have wanted to try sumo for myself. In this year’s All Japan Shin Sumo Championships, my heroine, Ms. Saito, placed third in the open division. She is 55!
MB – As an announcer, what has been your funniest experience to date on the amateur sumo scene?
KW – Well, let me say that announcing is a pretty serious job, and the embarrassing moments far outnumber the funny ones, but probably, trying to pronounce the many foreign names correctly has caused a few laughs. Particularly, the Thai, Russian and Mongolian names can be tongue-twisters. I started studying Russian after
the Russian team coach came and banged on the broadcast desk shouting “I TOLD YOU THREE TIMES HOW TO SAY THIS NAME AND YOU DID NOT PRONOUNCE IT CORRECTLY.” I thought if I studied the language a bit, I might have a better chance at getting the intonation right. It seemed like a good idea at the time, but now, I have to use my terrible Russian to interpret for the competitors, which probably leads to even funnier situations.
MB – And the saddest or the least enjoyable?
KW – That would have to be the World Championships in Riesa (Germany) in 2004. There were two German announcers, but only me for English. The program ran way overtime, and there were no breaks. The German guys could leave the broadcast desk in turn, but without me to do the English, everything would have had to stop. That meant from 11:30 A.M. to 10:00 P.M., without a break, not even time to go to the distantly-located toilet. Not an enjoyable experience.
MB – Are there any particular non-Japanese nations you see
as providing rikishi for the professional side of the sport in the years to come?
KW – That’s a difficult question. A good rikishi could come from anywhere. At present, the Europeans dominate amateur sumo, but the Mongolians, with their long Mongolian sumo tradition, are always going to be a strong source of rikishi. But really, if someone truly wants to be a professional rikishi, nationality doesn’t matter at all.
MB – What about competitors from this year’s event?
KW – At the moment, with the “one foreigner per heya” rule, there is no room for new foreigners in professional sumo, so we probably need to look to junior competitors in future years for the next stars. Kokkai’s brother, Georgi, who competed strongly in the Juniors in August, 2004 wanted to turn pro, but had to wait until September, 2005 to find a spot in Irumagawa-beya.
MB – Have you remained close to former amateurs you saw