‘Family and friends help athletes overcome failures’

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Many athletes in Mongolia have consistently practiced wrestling and achieved success. Unuudur newspaper interviewed one of them, athlete Ts.Mendsaikhan. In 2006, he won the national wrestling competition Avargiin Garaa and sumo wrestling tournament Ireeduin Avarga and started his sports career. In 2008, when he participated in the Hakuho Sumo Youth Tournament in Osaka, Japan and won a gold medal in the individual wrestling category and a bronze medal in the team category. The following year, he went to Tokyo for the Asa Cup and claimed the champion title. In 2014, he won a bronze medal at the World Youth Championships held in Irkutsk, Russia and a silver medal in the team category at the U18 World Cup in Taiwan. Two years later, he won the World Amateur Sumo Championship, held in Mongolia.

It’s fascinating to learn how athletes started their sports careers. It’s been a long time since you’ve been wrestling. Who led you on this path?

My uncles like wrestling very much. When I was eight years old, my grandmother took me to a sumo wrestling gym and I started my journey to become an athlete.

How did you feel the first time you went into the arena? Did you get discouraged when you saw your peers who had already become athletes?

On the first day of training, I saw my peers and I immediately realized I wasn’t as big as I thought I was. They were bigger and stronger than me. I was young at that time, so I wasn’t discouraged. It was fun to train in a busy gym full of athletes.

Was it unforgettable to win a gold medal for the first time?

I didn’t think that I would win the national wrestling competition after a month of training. It was my first competition, so I didn’t even understand the rules for the matches. Then, when I competed for the championship and won, people complimented me saying, “Oh, he’s a great boy”. I thought, “It’s good to train well and succeed in competitions.” That feeling of receiving love and respect from the crowd made me interested in sports.

Most athletes who practice wrestling have a wrestling lineage. You probably have something to say about it too.

There was no wrestler in our family. But Mongolians bless newborn sons, hoping they become strong like a wrestler. So, I think I have a wrestling lineage.

Did your parents support your decision to wrestle?

They were very happy and still support me. My father respected my decision and said, “It’s your choice and your life.” Mongolian sumo wrestlers are role models for children who have started wrestling.

For the first time, you went over the border to participate in the Hakuho Sumo Tournament, held in Osaka, Japan in 2008. How was that?

When I went to Japan for the first time to participate in the competition, I didn’t pay much attention to my surroundings at first. It felt very friendly to be greeted by others with a smile and a respectful bow. Osaka is crowded but clean. I remember the weather was hot and muggy. Sumo is the national sport of Japan. Japanese children are strong and have technical skills because they start training at the age of four or five and train regularly. I learned a lot from wrestling with the kids there.

When you were a junior athlete in kurash, sambo and judo, you achieved great success. You won quite a few titles. Who was your teacher?

In 2012, I entered the Temujin Sports Club and studied under the guidance of judo coach D.Enkhbaatar. He is a hardworking teacher. During the training, he put on judogi (judo uniform) and fought with the children, teaching and advising them.

Medals are like a symbol for athletes because they wear them after defeating their opponents. You have many awards. Which color medals do you have the most?

Silver is better than bronze, even if you get it after losing to your opponent. I have many gold and bronze medals.

Your family and teacher must have been very happy when you came home with bronze and silver medals from the World Youth Championships held in Irkutsk, Russia, and Taiwan.

It is difficult to compete against the best athletes at foreign competitions. It is the best feeling to come home with a medal from so much competition. The moment I get off the plane wearing a medal is an indescribable joy. It feels good to see the crowd cheering.

Do you keep in touch with the friends you used to train with?

Compared to the time when I was a child, I communicate and contact with them less. Everyone seems to be busy with work and life on their chosen path.

How long have you been in the USA? Do you miss your family and country?

I have been here for several months. It was not easy getting used to a new place.

I know that you won the World Amateur Sumo Championship. How successful are Americans in kurash and sumo wrestling?

I won and became a champion at the World Amateur Sumo Championship, held in Mongolia. Two years later, I won a silver medal at the Asian Championships. I started participating in adult competitions this year. Due to the pandemic, the tournament was not held in 2020 or 2021. Last August, I participated in sumo wrestling at the World Games 2022, held in Alabama, the USA and won fourth place. Later, I wrestled 14 times in the heavyweight and absolute weights categories At the USA Sumo Open, I won a gold medal with a score of 14:0. Sumo wrestling is developing here. People are very interested in it.

What did you learn from Americans? How close are they to Asians?

Americans are open in character and communicate freely with citizens of any country. They are honest. They will say what’s on their mind directly. As for me, I want to improve my English language skills first and then study the profession I am interested in.

Do you find it difficult to train and participate in competitions while working?

No matter where you live, it is important to learn to adapt to your new environment and training. I must not skip training even if I’m very busy. I should not postpone my training. Therefore, it is necessary to have a high level of personal organization.

Athletes taste success after practicing wrestling for many years. Sometimes they think about quitting. Have you thought about quitting?

Wrestling is not easy. It’s hard to lose a competition. After a defeat, I think about my mistakes and shortcomings for several days. There are a few international sumo wrestling competitions. Family and friends help athletes overcome failures.

Which country’s wrestlers did you battle against when you won the World Amateur Sumo Championship?

I went up against athletes from Hungary, Georgia, Japan and Egypt. They were all strong. A bad athlete does not compete in the World Championships. Personally, I don’t give my opponent a chance, I attack. I fight with everything I have and ultimately win.

In the future, will you participate in kurash, judo, sambo wrestling competitions, or in sumo?

Personally, I don’t often participate in competitions, but I train regularly. In the future, I will mostly participate in sumo wrestling.

Enkhnaranjav Tumurbaatar