Accidental Australian Sumo Champions – A Roller Derby Girls’ Story

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Kerry O'Connor third from right, Monica MacKenzie far right

By Kenada Quinlan

How does a Derby girl become an Australian Sumo Champion without one iota of training or knowledge of the sport? Now training for the World Sumo Championships taking place in Poland, Brisbane’s Kerry O’Connor, Sun State Roller Girl and current Australian Women’s Sumo Champion, enlightens us on the events that transpired and how you can get involved…

What the hell happened?
As part of the Sun State Roller Girls annual camp, we were down on the Gold Coast and our venue coincided with the Australian Sumo Championships. Sun State President Nicky Knockout started talking with the championship organisers about non-mainstream women’s sports and about the similarities between Sumo and roller derby. Both require participants to get down low for balance and to knock your opponent over. That’s when Sun State were invited to participate in the Australian Sumo Championship.

Who was involved?
We had about 60 skaters at the Sun State camp and about 12 decided to compete. I think mostly it was to try something different. We wore the Mawashi, the nappy looking thing, over our leggings and we learnt how to do the rituals including the foot stamping. Turns out, our booty blocking skills translated well for Sumo – the SS Roller Girls won four Sumo medals between them.

What were your fellow Sumo competitors like?
Tall, blonde, fit and gorgeous. A far cry from the stereotype.

How did you bout Sumo style?
No hair pulling – No hitting with closed fists – No eye-gouging. Apart from that you just go for it. Most of our bouts were really short and intense – 30 seconds in the ring using all the force you can muster is really quite exhausting. It was a sudden death… meaning once you lost you were eliminated from the competition – I played three bouts to win the championship.

How did you feel when you were invited to the World Sumo Championships in Poland?
I was totally shocked. I couldn’t believe I’d been asked… I was on the bus when I checked my emails and I went weak in the knees while grinning from ear to ear. It’s a once in a lifetime chance and I’ll be travelling with fellow derby girl Monica ‘Monstar’ MacKenzie who qualified for middle weight division – so it’s a real Sun State thing too. The derby league are really encouraging and supportive, and I’m also really pleased to be part of the Australian Female Sumo Team, who for the first time can field a competitor in each weight division.

What training is involved?
The competition runs 14 – 17 October so Monica and I are Sumo training once a week, plus normal derby training. Monica is a fitness instructor so she’s got it covered, and I’m trying to lift more weights and do more explosive type leg work because speed is a real advantage in Sumo.

How can people get involved and show their support?
The Australian Sumo Federation doesn’t have the funds to send the teams over, so we are looking for team or individual sponsors and doing our own fundraising.

You can join them for ‘Trivia Night Sumo Style’ at the Coorparoo Bowls Club September  24 at 7pm. Half the tickets have already been sold – for more information visit the Trivia Night Sumo Style Facebook page.

With the sponsorship, there are branding opportunities, and the ASF have been really successful in gaining great media coverage of their events. If you are interested in finding out more about Sumo or supporting our team to compete in Poland, contact the President of the Australian Sumo Federation Katrina Watts.

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