Printer Friendly

CLASH OF THE TITANS BELLIES COLLIDE AT U.S. SUMO OPEN.

Byline: Rachel Uranga Staff writer

Eyes locked, bellies bashed and mounds of fat crashed to the matt Sunday at the sixth annual U.S. Sumo Open.

In the end, it came down to 710 pounds and about 20 seconds.

Koichi Kato, a 380-pound U.S. sumo champion, overtook Wayne Vierres, a 330-pound Hawaiian state champion, in the open's final match at the Los Angeles Convention Center for this year's championship in less time than the average television commercial.

"It's a real show of force," said Shawnee Rios, a 41-year-old accountant from Los Feliz, agog at the action.

Dressed in mawashis, or ceremonial sumo belts, the two hulking men squatted. Then locked eyes.

Then they greeted each other, indicating neither had weapons. Then ... they charged. Head first.

Kaboom!

Kato, the tournament favorite, flipped Vierres over like a pancake. The crowd went wild.

"It's great," said Mike Nosanov, a 59-year-old retired city engineer and avid sumo fan. "It's one of the few places in life where hard work, dedication can and often does pay off when you are facing a powerful opponent."

Kato, a 33-year-old Japanese wrestler, has been competing more than two decades. He says Americans don't hone their techniques in the same way his countrymen do.

But for him the championship is about spreading the word of the art of sumo. "I want to become an international ambassador," he said through a translator. "It will take time."

It may be catching on, albeit slowly, in the United States.

Since its inception, the U.S. Sumo Open - an amateur sumo competition founded by a local English teacher - has grown from about 15 athletes to more than 60 in three different weight classes, including those for women.

When the annual tournament began six years ago, it could hardly fill the stands. Now the seats are packed with the curious, the serious and those who simply want to sip sake and watch people ram each another.

And it's not just about 400-pounders, as wilier athletes point out.

Trent Sabo, a 187-pound contender and winner of the 2004 lightweight championship, calls it the perfect combination between football and wrestling, except quicker.

On average, each match lasts less than 10 seconds. The object: either to be the first to force an opponent's body, other than his feet, to touch the floor; or to shove him out of the 4.5-meter ring.

"It's fast. There is no second chance - it is do or die," Sabo explained.

And while many of the U.S. competitors train only a few hours of week, sumo wrestlers from Japan live it.

The ring itself, the dohyo, is considered sacred in Japan. Salt is thrown on the ring to purify it before matches, and women are not allowed to step on the ring.

Things may be changing. Athletes are pushing for sumo wrestling to become an Olympic sport and one in which women can compete professionally in Japan. And others are spreading the word that sumo is not just about men in fancy underwear but is a sacred and ancient sport.

"Because it's big guys - mostly naked - people make fun of it," said Kelly Gneiting, of Arizona, a 405-pound sumo wrestler by weekend and research analyst by day. He said many don't appreciate sumo's value.

"It's very psychological. The matches are so quick, you have to focus all of your energy and skill into four seconds."

rachel.uranga(at)dailynews.com

(818) 713-3741

CAPTION(S):

3 photos

Photo:

(1) Jason Fukuman of Torrance and other members of the L.A. Taiko Okidagumi drum group perform at the U.S. Sumo Open on Sunday.

(2) Dancers from the Fujima Kansuma group perform a traditional Japanese dance to kick off the sixth annual U.S. Sumo Open.

(3) Wrestlers begin a match at the sixth annual U.S. Sumo Open with a traditional ritual at the Los Angeles Convention Center on Sunday.

Evan Yee/Staff Photographer
COPYRIGHT 2006 Daily News
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2006, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Apr 10, 2006
Words:653
Previous Article:MAYOR TRIES TO QUELL TENSIONS ON NEIGHBORHOOD COUNCILS.
Next Article:MTA WARNS OF HIKES EXPANSION PLANS BIG AND BUDGET FALLS SHORT.


Related Articles
GIRLS' VOLLEYBALL: SAUGUS IN DRIVER'S SEAT SENIORS KEY AS CENTURIONS TAKE CHARGE IN FOOTHILL RACE SAUGUS 3, VALENCIA 1.
Coaches' corner.
Sumo wrestling keeps big ants in line. (Zoology).
TOUGH ENOUGH SMALL FOR A SUMO, BUT DON'T COUNT HIM OUT.
Carey, Diane. Chainmail.
Trying for the top: every year Cirque du Soleil auditions hundreds of aspiring dancers. A handful make it under The Big Top.
Open Wide: How Hollywood Box Office Became a National Obsession.
Second Sunrise.

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2018 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters