Meet Jenelle Harrison: The World’s Most Unlikely Sumo Wrestler

When one pictures a sumo wrestler they can be forgiven if a mammoth, almost naked man is the first thing that pops into his or her head. That widely accepted image of a sumo wrestler has remained unchanged for hundreds of years. It is a sport that is dominated by big men wearing almost nothing.

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Jenelle Hamilton, a single mother from California, stands 5’4″ and weighs about 130 pounds. She doesn’t look like a sumo wrestler, but the 34-year-old is the defending U.S. sumo lightweight champion.

Hamilton was recently featured in a story on ESPN, talking about her ‘side passion’ and how she put down her own money to compete in Japan:

Most recently, Hamilton shelled out for a ticket to Osaka, Japan, to compete in the 11th Women’s Sumo World Championships at the end of August — before she even qualified for a spot on the U.S. team. “I said, ‘Screw it, I’m either going to Japan to compete or I’m gonna go to Japan and see my friends and cheer them on. One way or another, I’m going.'”

Luckily, she did qualify, defending her title in the lightweight division by placing first — and earning the trip for which she’d already plunked down $700.

In the story Hamilton talks about how a colleague of hers got her into the sport and how she is drawn to the tradition and respect that sumo demands.

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