06/15/2013, 00.00
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From the pyramids to sumo wrestler, a young Egyptian conquers Tokyo

Egyptian by birth and an observant Muslim, Ahmed Shaalan - Osunaarashi Kintaro in Japanese - is the first sumo wrestler from Africa to obtain the title of sekitori, the highest recognition in the martial art. "I believe in God but I admire Shintoism."

Tokyo (AsiaNews / Agencies) - Osunaarashi Kintaro is the first African to join the elite of sumo. Egyptian by birth and a devout Muslim, the 21 year old prodigy is the third non-Japanese athlete in the history of the discipline to achieve the prestigious degree of sekitori.

In the literal sense, the term refers to the meaning of crossing a barrier to reach a privileged status and there are only 70 sumo wrestlers holding that title. The sekitori competes in the first two international divisions - the makuuchi and juryo - in which he has particular economic and media privileges. The only two non-Japanese wrestlers who have obtained the same recognition in the past, are an Estonian and a Hawaiian.

Abdelrahman Ahmed Shaalan was born near the pyramids of Giza, where at 15 he started to train in the local gym. Driven by an ambition to fight in the Olympus of sumo, two years ago he left the Egyptian Amateur structures and suspended his university studies to travel to Japan. In the Koki Nava gym, where the champion Taiho trained, the young man began a hard path of preparation with dedication and humility, combining the limitations imposed by the Muslim religion with diets provided by the training program.

When last year, the prestigious tournament in Nagoya coincided with the period of Ramadan, Osunaarashi Kintaro says he fought fasting only rinsing his mouth between one encounter and another. "In the same way that I believe in Allah I find aspects to admire in Japanese culture," says the Egyptian athlete, who eats fish soup and sashimi instead of pork - ubiquitous in the Japanese diet - and does not forget to recite the Shinto prayer every time he sets foot on the competition floor.


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