Wednesday, January 23, 2019 | ePaper

Venezuela's sumo novices gird loins against economic crisis

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Their physique may be a far cry from the celebrated bulk of Japan's mammoth fighters, but athletes like Walter Rivas are beginning to make a name for themselves -- and the noble sport of sumo wrestling -- in Venezuela.
Popularizing the traditional Japanese combat sport in crisis-wracked Venezuela, of all places, is an uphill battle.
Here, a wrestler's most fearsome opponent is not the one staring them down from across the dohyo, or ring, but the country's overwhelming economic crisis.
Despite the struggle, Duglexer Gonzalez says with a sense of pride: "Sumo in Venezuela? Yes. Here in Venezuela, can you believe, we have sumo."
Known by his sumo moniker of "King Musampa," he was one of the first practitioners of the discipline in the Caribbean country and now heads the fledgling national federation.
"We're fighting against taboos and high costs," he said.
The pioneering "rikishi" or fighter, is one of the reasons why sumo is slowly winning recognition in baseball-mad Venezuela, though still far behind popular sports like football, basketball and boxing.
"We are not simply fat!" says Musampa, emphatically.
However, their chosen path to sporting immortality is fraught with problems in a country where basic foods are scarce and hyperinflation means prices can rise daily.
Walter Rivas laments the fact that like most Venezuelans, he faces a relentless struggle to keep his weight up.

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