For years, promoters of sumo have been pushing for the sport’s inclusion in the Olympic Games.
To get there, the International Sumo Federation has thrown its weight behind a form of the game that would offend purists and surprise most everyone else: women’s sumo.
When the International Olympic Committee declared in 1994 that single-sex sports could no longer qualify as candidates for the Games, that was enough to turn tradition that featured giant men with topknots shoving each other in a ring on its head. Since then, sumo has been coming into its own internationally as an equal opportunity sport.
Such a radical change to Japan’s ancient national sport did not come easy, and the initial push came from outside the country. Among those who lobbied the I.F.S., as the sumo federation is commonly known, was Stephen Gadd, the general secretary of the European Sumo Union and president of the Netherlands Sumo Federation.