NAGOYA--With his stunning upsets of not one, but two yokozuna in the early stages of the Nagoya Grand Sumo Tournament here, Osunaarashi, as might be expected, is plotting his next move.
But the victory the 22-year-old has in mind is being fought outside the ring.
As the first African and Muslim sumo wrestler in Japan, Osunaarashi must grapple daily with the fact he cannot eat or drink during daylight hours because of Ramadan.
"I'm so hungry my head is spinning," the No. 3 maegashira moaned as he entered the dressing room after his victory over yokozuna Kakuryu on July 17, the fifth day of the tournament.
There were no words of joy over winning a "kinboshi," or golden victory, the term for when a maegashira wrestler upsets a yokozuna. Osunaarashi was thinking only of food.
Because Ramadan is determined by the lunar calender, in which a year is roughly 11 days shorter than one in the solar calender, the number of days in Ramadan that overlap with the annual Nagoya tournament changes each year.
Osunaarashi, born Abdelrahman Alaa Eldin Mohamed Ahmed Sharan in Giza, Egypt, had to fast the last two days of the Nagoya tournament in his debut year of 2012 and also for the 12 days following the fourth day of the tournament last year.
But this year, Ramadan started on June 29, the day before the official ranking of wrestlers for the Nagoya tournament was announced. It lasts until July 27, which coincides with the final day of the tournament.
He trains and fights during the day, but is unable to eat or drink to boost his energy level.
After his bout, as the sun set while he was in the car going back to his lodgings in Inazawa, Aichi Prefecture, the wrestler suddenly rushed into a convenience store to chug down soft drinks. When he got to his destination, he ate fried duck and cooked Egyptian jute soup himself, eating more than his usual portion.
The next morning, he arose before dawn and reheated the leftovers, hoping he would remain full for the rest of the day.
Because he lost 7 kilograms during last year's Ramadan, Osunaarashi is trying to maintain his daily calory intake by mixing butter into his rice.
While training under the summer sun, Osunaarashi does his best to minimize his thirst by gargling. "The thirst is the most unbearable of all," he said.
He even developed a 38-degree fever during the tournament. Although he was given an intravenous drip at a hospital, he refused to ingest medication during daylight hours.
On July 23, when the tournament was its 11th day, Osunaarashi's score was five wins against six losses. Although the tournament is nearing its end, Osunaarashi can still count on tough opponents both inside and outside the ring.
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