Beauty and Brawn: Indian woman sumo wrestler at World Games

Kaohsiung: All on her own,
she is here at the World Games to represent India in a sport
which can hardly be associated with women and is anonymous
back home.

Hetal Sudhir Kumar Dave is the country`s first female
sumo wrestler and although the 21-year-old middleweight (71kg)
wrestler from Mumbai bowed out in the preliminary stages here,
she is not too worried as it was just her second international
tournament since taking up the unconventional sport a year

"Sumo wrestling fascinated me ever since I saw some boys
compete. I immediately knew this was something I wanted to
take a shot at and here I am at such big stage," Hetal told
reporters in an interview here.

"I was a judoka before becoming a sumo wrestler... I have
even done a bit of weightlifting and powerlifting. The first
international sumo competition in which I took part was the
World Championship in Estonia last year. I came fifth there
due to which I qualified for the World Games," she said.

Hetal`s judo coach Cawas Billimoria is also her sumo
coach and a former sumo practitioner. Billimoria had a couple
of silver and a bronze medal to his credit at the Asian level
in the 90s.

"He is my idol. When I first told him that I wanted to be
a sumo wrestler, he saw me compete for a few times before
agreeing," Hetal said.

Asked how her family reacted to the decision, Hetal said
she never had any trouble convincing her parents.

"They go out of their way to make sure that I get what I
want. They never had any problem with me taking up the sport,"
she said.

Sumo wrestling is not yet a part of the Olympic Games,
which means Hetal gets no support from the government but the
commerce student, who teaches judo in her former school, is
not complaining.

"Let me tell you, even if sumo wrestling never gets
Olympic recognition, I would still be a sumo wrestler," she

"As far as not getting government support goes, it`s OK
and I don`t really mind although it does create some problems
sometimes because I have to keep looking for sponsors. I could
come to the World Games the Tata Trust agreed to sponsor me,"
she said.

But she did feel disheartened at not finding any Indian
delegation at the World Games considering that the event has
athletes from 91 countries in attendance.

"I skipped the opening ceremony because there were no
Indians around. It hurts... these are very unique Games where
a lot of unconventional sports are being played. So it would
have been nice to have had an Indian delegation," Hetal said.

"A bit of moral support goes a long way in shaping an
athlete`s future," she added.

With no female colleagues in her category in India, Hetal
has to practice with boys and she says it helps improve her

"I practice with my brother and a few other boys and it`s
great because fighting with men makes me a better wrestler as
it improves my endurance," she said.

Out of contention here, the homesick Mumbaikar cannot
wait to return to India and start practicing for her next
major international event, which is likely to be in Egypt in

"I came all alone. I have no company here, not even my
coach. I am feeling very homesick. The language is also a
problem. I will return to India on Sunday and start preparing
for my next event," she signed off.

Bureau Report