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Photos: Brazil’s female sumo wrestlers breaking barriers


If the phrase “sumo wrestler” brings to mind a burly Asian man in a loincloth, Valeria and Diana Dall’Olio, a mother-daughter sumo wrestling team from Brazil, have a message: think again.

The Dall’Olios are used to people saying they are too small, too fragile, or too feminine to play a sport typically associated with hulking Japanese men.

But they say this is just fuel for their fighting spirit when they get into the dojo – the ring.

“There are a lot of prejudices. When you say you practice sumo, some people think you must be fat,” said 39-year-old Valeria as she prepares for a competition at a public gym in Sao Paulo.

“Women are always under a microscope in the martial arts because they are sports that are generally restricted to male fighters.”

She started martial arts as a girl and learned judo and jiu-jitsu. In 2016, she fell in love with sumo, which was brought to Brazil by Japanese immigrants in the early 20th century.

Soon she was winning competitions – all the way up to the Brazilian national title, which she won three times (2018, 2019 and 2021) in the middleweight category (65-73 kg or 143-161 pounds). In 2021 she added the South American Championship to her trophy cabinet.

Women are banned from professional sumo in Japan. In its hometown, the highly ritualized sport has been associated with the Shinto religion for more than 1,500 years, whose believers traditionally view women as impure or unlucky for sumo.

In the past, women were not allowed to attend matches or even touch sumo wrestlers.

But since 2001, an international amateur women’s sumo championship has been held. The organizers hope to make it an Olympic sport one day.


Merry C. Vega is a highly respected and accomplished news author. She began her career as a journalist, covering local news for a small-town newspaper. She quickly gained a reputation for her thorough reporting and ability to uncover the truth.

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