TOKYO: The first professional sumo wrestler from both the African continent and Arab world has reportedly brushed aside worries about observing Ramadan during a key tournament.
Egypt's Abdelrahman Ahmed Shaalan described the daytime fast – a key part of the month-long Muslim celebration which will overlap with his final bout at a tournament in Nagoya Friday – as “no problem”.
“No problem. I only think of winning the remaining bouts. I'm confident,” Shaalan was quoted as saying in Japan's top-selling Yomiuri Shimbun Wednesday.
As a practising Muslim, the wrestler better known by his ring name Osunaarashi, which translates as Great Sandstorm, will not eat or drink from sunrise to sunset during Ramadan.
Sumo wrestlers depend on eating vast quantities of food to keep up their stout physiques and for energy during tournaments, which are held several times a year across Japan.
However, the Egyptian plans to consume large amounts of water before and after daylight to help him cope, according to the sports daily Hochi.
The 20-year-old claimed victory in the novice class in a tournament in May, winning seven bouts with no defeats to dominate the “Jonokuchi” class, the lowest of six divisions in the highly-ritualised sport.
The wrestler, who moved up one rank, has earned four wins with one defeat during the two-week contest in Nagoya. He did not compete in one bout as he was recovering from an ankle injury, according to the Japan Sumo Association.
“His movement was smooth. His leg looks okay now,” Shaalan's stablemaster Otake was quoted as saying.
The Egyptian won an open-class bronze medal at the 2008 world junior sumo championships and an over-100 kilogram bronze at the 2010 edition before joining the pro ranks.
Small in number, foreigners are vital members of tradition-bound sumo.
Mongolians, led by grand champion Hakuho, have been a dominant force in the top ranks for years.
The sport has suffered in recent years with a hugely damaging bout-fixing scandal that infuriated the public and forced the resignations of about two dozen wrestlers and a stablemaster.