In Brazil, female sumo wrestlers “break the first look”.


If the word “sumo wrestler” brings to mind an Asian guy in a thong, Valeria and Diana Dall’Olio, mother-daughter sumo wrestlers from Brazil, have something to say: think again.

Dall’Olios are used to playing sports typically associated with Japanese men, only to have people tell them they’re too small, too delicate or too feminine.

But they say it’s only fuel for their fighting spirit when they step into the “dojo” or ring.

“When you say you’re going to do sumo, some people think you have to get fat,” 39-year-old Valeria told AFP as she prepared for the competition at a gym in Sao Paulo.

“Women are always under the microscope in martial arts because they are sports that are usually limited to male fighters.”

Since she was a girl, she practiced judo and jiu-jitsu and got involved in martial arts.

In 2016, he fell in love with sumo, which was brought to Brazil by Japanese immigrants in the early 20th century.

Soon he won fights – up to the Brazilian national title, which he won three times (2018, 2019 and 2021) in the middleweight category (from 65 to 73 kilograms, from 143 to 161 pounds).

He added the South American Championship to his trophy case in 2021.

“I try to balance my different lives: housewife, mother of two children. “I don’t have much free time,” says Valeria.

In Japan, women are banned from professional sumo.

In its homeland, the highly ritualized sport has been associated for more than 1,500 years with the Shinto religion, whose followers have traditionally considered women impure or unlucky for sumo.

In the past, women were forbidden to go to fights and even touch sumo wrestlers.

International sumo championship among amateur women has been held since 2001. Organizers hope to one day make it an Olympic sport.

Getting permission to participate in the competition is “a real victory for us,” says Valeria.

“We usually have more fighting spirit than men who are not used to fighting on multiple fronts like us.”

Diana, 18, says she was never interested in wrestling – until its speed attracted her to sumo.

Matches rarely last more than 30 seconds, in which wrestlers compete to knock or push each other down a round, dirt ring.

Strength, strategy and technique are all.

For the first time in 2019, Diana wore a “mawasi” or sumo headscarf.

He currently performs in lightweight (up to 65 kg).

“You can feel the prejudice,” she says of people’s reactions to her choice of sport.

“A lot of people say, ‘Women are fragile, they get hurt and leave,'” she says.

“It’s one of those things we learn to deal with. My generation is growing.”

In Brazil, sumo is developing rapidly mainly thanks to women, says Oscar Morio Tsuchiya, president of the Brazilian Sumo Confederation.

Women make up about half of the country’s 600 sumo wrestlers, he says.

“Because of Shinto customs, which prohibit women from entering the ring, many traditionalists were afraid of competing. But these barriers are being removed,” he says.

Dall’Olios cleans up the Dojo after a tough day at the Sao Paulo gym, where Diana won one of her three fights and Valeria lost to 18-time Brazilian middleweight champion Luciana Watanabe.

Watanabe, 37, is the public face of sumo in Brazil.

He shares his passion for sports with children in Susano, a small town with a large Japanese-Brazilian population 50 kilometers (31 miles) from São Paulo.

“Usually men teach sumo,” she says.

“But I think I inspire kids when I show them my titles.”

He, too, says his goal is to “destroy stereotypes.” “I want people to respect the sport more,” he says.

“A lot of people still think it’s a sport only for fat men. Sumo is for everyone.”

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