Chamila Karawita at a sumo bout

Chamila Karawita is a big man with big dreams. He has done Sri Lanka proud by putting this island on the ‘world map’ of sumo. At present he is rated eighth in the world in the sport of amateur sumo, a discipline where size, speed and technique guarantee you reign supreme.

Chamila is a giant. He weighs 139 kilos. But strength is his self-confidence. There have been occasions where he has made mincemeat out of opponents. He has also tasted defeat where he had to be virtually helped off the fighting arena. That’ how tough this brutal sport called sumo is.

He is a beast when it comes to fighting. “You have to fist bang into your opponent when the bout starts. Then you have to throw him on to the canvas or push him out of the fighting arena. Generally, a bout is over in a flash. I think sumo is one of the fastest sports in the world,” said the 34-year-old Chamila in an interview with Weekend Nation.
He erased doubts in the minds of this writer that sumo is only for huge people. According to him, sumo bouts are conducted in the under 75, 85, 95, 115, heavy and open categories. “I fight in the heavy weight category which is by far the most popular segment in sumo. I have been unbeaten in my class in domestic competitions and hope to bring more glory to the country in the international scene,” said this power athlete who is hoping to contest the first ever Sumo National Championships which is scheduled for January 25 this year.

Chamila has represented Sri Lanka at two World Championships; the first in Osaka Japan (2015) and this year in Mongolia. Sumo originated in Japan and by now has gained popularity in countries like America, Georgia, Mongolia, Mexico and Egypt to name a few. But interestingly, this islander received his initial sumo training in America.

Chamila like most Sri Lankan kids tried his luck at cricket and was quite successful. He captained his school cricket team and played club cricket for Badureliya and Matugama cricket clubs. But after leaving school he took to journalism and due to the less active lifestyle he led, his weight ballooned. It was during this time that he took a decision to try sumo with the help of the Sri Lanka Sumo Federation.

“I fight in the heavy weight category which is by far the most popular segment in sumo",  says Chamila Karawita |  (Pic by Mushtaq Thasleem)
“I fight in the heavy weight category which is by far the most popular segment in sumo”, says Chamila Karawita | (Pic by Mushtaq Thasleem)

He believes sumo should be introduced to schools in Sri Lanka. “There are so many big boys who are obese and are sidelined in schools. These boys can make very good sumo players,” he said.

A persontaking to sumo must consume a high-protein diet. Two of the favoured food items consumed by sumo players are chicken breasts and egg whites. “Body fat must be reduced and body mass must consist of muscle. If you see the players from a country like Mongolia, they are big but hard,” he said.

However, one must set the diet to perfection. Otherwise you will be in trouble. There was once an occasion when he tried to increase his protein intake and severely reduced on carbohydrates. He body was in a stage of transformation and he was nowhere near his desired goal. Thus he paid the penalty of being under prepared and lost badly because he lacked power.

Chamila fights in amateur sumo championships. This is one reason why he is yet to get a bout with a Japanese. He said he received a lot of encouragement from sumo players when he went abroad for championships. “I am very popular when I fight abroad and they know that I am from Sri Lanka. Everyone is so helpful. The international sumo community is one big family,” he said.

During competitions he fights unattached. He said that during local or international tournaments he is often alone. At present, he doesn’t represent any club, but hopes to form his own in the near future.

He has fought against world- renowned sumo fighters like Royce Seamen and one time world number one Byambajar Ulambayar from Mongolia. His best performance to date came at the US Open this year where he reached the semi finals after winning four, receiving a walkover and losing two fights. “I am proud that I got to represent Sri Lanka at a world championship in the sport of sumo,” said Chamila who is a journalist by profession.

He is aware of the popularity he enjoys as a sumo player in Sri Lanka. He said that he can retain his position as the most accomplished sumo player from Sri Lanka for the next four years.

Chamila said that Japan is making a bid to get sumo included to the list of disciplines at the next edition of the Games which this Asian powerhouse will host in 2020. “If Japan manages that, I can safely say that I can be looked upon as the sumo player to carry South Asia’s hopes to the Olympics,” he said.