OITA -- Members of a Ukrainian sumo team paid a visit on June 10 to the governor of Oita Prefecture, where they are training ahead of July's World Games in the United States featuring non-Olympic events.
Gov. Katsusada Hirose told the team members at the Oita Prefectural Government headquarters, "Although your country is going through hard times, I hope you will steadily practice." In response, Oleksandr Veresiuk, 33, who will appear in the World Games in the over-115 kilogram heavyweight division, vowed to take the gold medal home to Ukraine.
When the delegates, including 60-year-old coach Liubov Korobko, arrived at the prefectural government building, about 30 officials welcomed them waving small Ukrainian flags.
Veresiuk, who is 196 centimeters tall and weighs 185 kg, is good at the sumo techniques of forcing the opponent out (yorikiri) and pushing the adversary out (oshidashi). When the governor asked him how he was, the grappler replied that he was able to concentrate on his training, which he was doing twice a day, and that he wanted to leverage his 15 years in the ring to get good results.
Gov. Hirose told the delegates that former yokozuna Futabayama, who won a record 69 straight bouts in grand sumo tournaments, hails from the city of Usa in Oita Prefecture. Korobko told the governor that the coach is a native of Kharkiv in Ukraine, where the father of former legendary yokozuna Taiho was from, and that the country and Japan are connected.
Taiho, considered the greatest yokozuna champion of the Showa era (1926-1989), racked up 45 consecutive grand sumo tournament bout wins.
(Japanese original by Fumito Tsushima, Oita Bureau, and Katsuyuki Miyamoto, Usa Local Bureau)