Sumo wrestler deaths raise obesity concerns

dw.com -- Dec 03
Several recent deaths have highlighted the weight-associated risks in the traditional Japanese sport. Experts are calling for improved oversight and more attention to personal health on the part of wrestlers.

The early deaths of three sumo wrestlers over the span of just a year and a half have raised the alarm over health and safety for sumo wrestlers.

In May of last year, 28-year-old wrestler Kyotaka Omori, who was known by the sumo name "Shobushi," died in May 2020 after contracting the coronavirus in April of that year.

Omori, who competed in the lower divisions of the sport, was only admitted to the hospital the following in May after he started to cough up blood, but his condition was complicated by diabetes. He later died of multiple organ failure.

Following Omori's death, Anatoly Mikhakhanov, a Russian-born wrestler, who fought under the name Orora and was the heaviest wrestler in the history of Japan's national sport, warned last year that wrestlers were risking their health in search of victory on the sport's sacred dohyo, or raised ring.

Mikhakhanov had tipped the scales at 292.6 kilograms (645 pounds) at his peak weight.

In August last year, a retired wrestler known as Maeta, collapsed and died after suffering a heart attack as he was teaching sumo moves to a group of school children.

Maeta, 38, had weighed more than 200 kilograms for the majority of his sumo career, despite only being 180 centimeters (5 feet, 4 inches) tall.

Most recently, on November 20, another former heavyweight of the ring died young.

Toyonoumi, who weighed more than 200 kilograms and fought in 30 tournaments in the sport's top makuuchi division, died from an unspecified illness at the age of 56.