Brave one-armed sumo wrestler inspired yokozuna Terunofuji to rise from the bottom

Yoshiki Fuse (Photo courtesy of Yoshiki Fuse)

TOKYO – New yokozuna Terunofuji won the fall Grand Sumo tournament on September 26, his first title since being promoted to grand champion and his fifth overall victory. His rise to the top of the sumo world after descending into the Fifth Tier Jonidan Division due to injuries and illnesses captured the hearts of sumo fans, while a certain grappler who inspired Terunofuji to rise through the bottom was also recognized.

That wrestler is Yoshiki Fuse, 47, who came to prominence around 30 years ago as a “one-armed high school rikishi”.

In April this year, Terunofuji, 29, who had returned to the sport’s second place as an ozeki and started training for the summer tournament, spoke in a low voice.

“In an old documentary, I saw a man wrestling sumo with one arm. And when I saw him fight so hard even though he was missing an arm, it made me want to do my better too. ”

In addition to injuries to both knees that contributed to his fall, Mongolian-born Terunofuji suffered from type 2 diabetes and hepatitis and was at risk of losing his wrestling career as well as his life.

It was then that Isegahama’s stable wrestler, Terunofuji, saw the program, and he sometimes watched it again to gain courage. The one-armed wrestler featured in the show was Fuse when he was in high school.

Fuse was born in Aomori Prefecture in northern Japan and raised in Hokkaido. When he was in his second year of elementary school, he lost his right arm from the elbow down when he was caught in an agricultural cutter. After the accident he stayed in his shell and was kicked out of his group of friends, but at his father’s suggestion he started judo the following year.

Yoshiki Fuse is seen in the sumo ring. (Photo courtesy of Yoshiki Fuse)

At that time, the existence of disabled sports was not as well known as it is today, and young Fuse felt comfortable competing alongside able-bodied people. Being a kid with big bones, he started winning more and more, and “judo became the only thing I could trust,” Fuse recalls.

In his third year of high school, Fuse’s 176-centimeter, 110-kilogram physique looked very promising, and he started sumo in high school. After entering Agricultural High School in Hokkaido Ohno, one of the powers of sumo in Japan’s northernmost prefecture, he won the Hokkaido tournament in 1991 as a sophomore and finished in the top eight. first at the Inter-High School Sports Festival the following year. .

In the team competition at the sports festival, Fuse defeated Ryuta Tsushima, who later became komusubi Iwakiyama (now stablemaster Sekinoto). These achievements attracted the attention of the media, and a documentary program about him was produced.

Fuse was also successful as a member of the Takushoku University sumo team and later became a teacher at Daiichi High School at Takushoku University in Tokyo. He founded a sumo club and taught students, while continuing to compete in the amateur ring himself.

“Sumo is a sport that lasts a lifetime. I want to send the message that anyone can compete until their body stops functioning,” Fuse said. As Terunofuji rose to prominence and his comment was flagged, Fuse’s presence once again caught the attention of the sumo world. “It’s not often that I’m recognized by a professional rikishi, so I’m honored,” he added.

This summer, Fuse watched the Tokyo Paralympics with great interest. “Every time I watch the Paralympics I feel the potential of human beings, like ‘we can do this, we can do that,'” he said.

“In my case, I was not aware of my disability – thanks to the people I was involved with who treated me like an ordinary person, but there is no need to distinguish between people with disabilities. and those who don’t when I play sports. I’m unique. ”

Fuse hopes the way he challenges himself will give more people courage.

(Japanese original by Masaru Kurokawa, Sports News Department)

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Robert J. King