First Muslim Sumo Wrestler to Promote the Sport in Africa

March 21, 2014

Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article. 

1. elite /ɪˈlit, eɪˈlit/ (adj.) – the best or the highest
Example: The brilliant inventor belongs to an elite group of scientists recognized all over the world.

2. try (something) out /traɪ ˈsʌmˌθɪŋ aʊt/ (phrasal v.) – to check or evaluate something out
ExampleHe tried the new sport out and found it fun.

3. countryman /ˈkʌntrimən/ (n.) – a native of one’s own country
ExampleThe multi-awarded athlete is considered a hero by his countrymen.

4. fast /fæst, fɑst/ (v.) – to not eat food for a certain period of time
ExampleShe fasts because she desperately wants to lose weight.

5. abstain /æbˈsteɪn/ (v.) – to refrain from doing something
ExampleThe boxer abstains from eating too much while he is training.


Read the text below.
Abdelrahman [ab-del-RAH-man] Ahmed Shaalan [SHA-lan], the first professional sumo wrestler from Egypt, aims to promote the sport in his home country and in Africa.

Although there are many foreign sumo wrestlers in Japan, 22-year-old Shaalan is the first Muslim to enter the dohyo, or ring. Shaalan is known as Osunaarashi or the Great Sandstorm.

Weighing 146 kilograms (322 pounds), he has won nine and lost six matches in January 2014. Last October, Shaalan was promoted to the elite division of sumo wrestling, making him the first foreign-born wrestler to be immediately included in the prestigious group.

Sumo wrestling is not very famous in Africa. Thus, having an Egyptian wrestler seem to have surprised many people. When asked why he joined the sport, Shaalan explained that he wants it to be famous in his country. But to achieve this goal, he needs to succeed in Japan.

Initially, Shaalan wanted to become a body builder. When he was invited to try sumo wrestling out, he refused at first. He thought that the sport, which his countrymen call “the battle between two elephants,” was ugly. He also did not want to be fat at that time.

When he finally tried it out, he was not able to win against a wrestler half his weight, much to his surprise. Feeling challenged, he began t0 love the sport.

One of Shaalan’s greatest challenges during training is observing Ramadan, a religious practice that requires Muslims to fast. He has observed the practice twice since becoming a wrestler. He said that abstaining from drinking water more than eating food is very difficult when he is training.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.  

Discussion A

·         Considering the cultural and religious practices in the Arab region, do you think sumo wrestling will be famous there? Why or why not?
·         How do you think Shaalan can best promote the sport in his country? Please explain briefly.

Discussion B

·         How can sports affect a country’s culture? Explain.
·         What can be the disadvantages of being a sumo wrestler? Explain.


March 21, 2014