Meet the Ukrainian sumo wrestlers who fled to Japan to train for the 2022 World Games

A team of six Ukrainian sumo wrestlers whose training was interrupted by the Russian invasion will soon travel to the United States to compete in the World Games 2022.

The World Games are an international multi-sport event organized with the support of the International Olympic Committee.

This year, approximately 3,600 elite athletes from more than 100 countries will compete for gold.

From Ukraine to Japan

The Ukrainian sumo team trained in Japan, the birthplace of the ancient sport of wrestling, in preparation for the competition. They held training camps in the southern prefectures of Oita and Ehime.

Previously, the athletes trained in Kharkiv, but were forced to leave when Russia invaded and the city came under heavy bombardment in late February.

“It’s horrible what is happening in our country. People are dying, infrastructure is destroyed, sports complexes are destroyed. Rockets are falling all over the country, no place is calm,” said Ivanna Berezovska , member of the Ukrainian Sumo Team.

Berezovksa won a silver medal in the freeweight category at the 2017 World Games and is one of two women currently on the Ukrainian squad.

“By participating in the World Games, first I want to give myself something to be happy about and then I want to give people back home something to be happy about,” added Berezovksa.

Ukraine has been one of the most successful countries in the sport of sumo since its debut at the 2005 World Games. It is estimated that around 3,000 people in Ukraine are involved in the sport of sumo wrestling.

This year Russian and Belarusian athletes have been banned from competing at the World Games, but Ukrainian coach Liubov Korobko said she believes “sports and politics shouldn’t mix”.

“I think there are a lot of athletes in Russia who are against this war,” she said.

“I think it would have been a good place for their athletes to tell us their opinions as friends and express their desire for peace,” Korobko added.

The World Games take place from July 7 to 17, 2022.

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