December 3, 2023

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Although Ryuichi Yamamoto rose through the ranks of sumo wrestling, winning five national championships as a college student and reaching the top six of pros in his native Japan, he seemed destined to live a life beyond strict sporting traditions.

For example, Yamamoto – better known as Yama – remembers being reprimanded by broadcasters for daring to crack jokes during post-match live interviews. He also remembers that he was completely unable to summon the competitive mentality that many coaches preached since elementary school, which was to imagine that his opponent had killed his mother and then retaliate against him. And that’s without mentioning the financial losses of the comprehensive training system that gave him only two weeks of annual home visit leave throughout high school and college.

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