2003: European champion in the team competitions, bronze in the heavyweight class.
2004: Silver in the World team championship; European champion in the team competitions and bronze in the heavyweight class.
2005: World champion in the open category (individual and team competitions) and bronze in the heavyweight class; bronze
European champion in the team competitions and silver in the open class.
Absolute world sumo champion, Ekaterina Keyb lives in Balashov, a small town in Saratov region, Russia. She was born on November 7, 1886. Her height is 5’11” (180cm), weight - 308 lbs (140kg) and shoe size – 12 (American men’s size) or 46 (European men’s size). She easily accomplishes the splits. She is still surprised if she is recognized by strangers. She is a world celebrity. But her biggest victory is the victory over her own complexes.
The day when I met her, the nineteen-year-old student in the Saratov Social-Law University passed the road test. She was supposed to get her driver license in two days and exactly at the same time, Saratov governor intended to present her with the certificate of International Sambo master. She was upset, She said that she would live without the certificate but urgently needed the driver license. However she didn’t want to offend the governor and would go to Saratov.
During all her life, Ekaterina (Katya) always was an object of mockery. Her mom recalls that Katya was in tears when she came back from the very first day in the elementary school. Boys told her that she was too big for the first grade and “advised” her to take her frame back home. Certainly, she was not accepted for dancing classes or for school theater troupe. She was not accepted to the gym class either. Her mom (pediatrician, by the way) visited her teachers. The physical education teachers told her mom she was kind of sick and couldn’t do anything in gym. Even written permissions didn’t help.
However, every one sometimes gets a chance. You just have to be ready to use it. May be Gods who build your fate decided she had enough.
When Katya was 13, her mom was called to watch Sambo competitions (she was a pediatrician, remember) – the doctor of the staff got sick and referees refused to start the competitions without a doctor. Katya was taken along with her girl-friends to the competitions. When she was sitting on the stand towering over her friends, a trainer came to her mom and said pointing to Katya: “That’s good you have an older leader who brought people here”. Her mom said it was not an older leader but her daughter, 13 year old. The trainer was shocked and just offered Katya to attend wrestling classes. She bluntly refused. The trainer Sergey Antipov tried to convince Katya to enroll in his Sambo team. He even visited her at home and sent other girls and boys to convince her. In vain. She was afraid of mockery. It took her a year to make up her mind to go to the gym.
- As soon as I started attending the team, at last, I felt myself as everyone else. Nobody teased her anymore.
- Well, didn’t you want to learn some techniques and to punish those who attempted to teas you and to kick their asses?
- Noway! I am unable to hit a person…
After two years, the kindest Ekaterina Keyb became a junior European Sambo champion. Later, on one of the numerous tournaments she was noticed by Sumo trainers.
After the first training Sumo session, Katya was upset. Her new Sumo trainer never came to her, even though he gave a lot of advice to everyone else. She thought she didn’t have a talent for Sumo. However, after the training she learned that the trainer considered her as a very skillful experience Sumo wrestler because she did everything properly. It was nothing to correct, that’s why he didn’t come to her. That’s how effortlessly she mastered Sumo without splitting hairs about the art philosophy. In the World championship in Osaka she appeared the youngest athlete.
In Japan, Ekaterina was very surprised by the attitude and respect toward big people. Sumotori are not sickly at all and stewardesses in plains offered them more comfortable and roomy seats. They respect stunt people very much. This is the tradition. In the past, a Sumo wrestler could visit the Emperor without ceremony (having a gift though). And Sumo bouts were to death. The ring was surrounded by bamboo pikes where a loser might end his life. The Sumo match may last from a few seconds to a minute but they say the sumotori are exhausted more than after several Judo of Sambo matches.
And the Sumo ceremony is something! It’s a theater! Katya says: “You stand, the entire world looks at you, drums pace the rhythm and spectators launch pop-guns. Two boys come to each athlete and take her into the ring as a princess. You feel yourself as a movie star.”
The burst is very important in a Sumo match. You have to abruptly spurt and gather speed after a gong, in order to be able to take your opponent out of the ring. In the final match Katya met a Dutch athlete who put her arms forward, just to Katya’s face. As a result, her face then looked as one bruise. However, Katya managed to carry her out of the dohyo. The Japanese applauded standing. Her mom literally sobbed when was told her daughter became a world champion.
Presently, parents of big girls come to Katya for advice. They ask to help their children to get rid of constraints. Katya tries to help everyone; she can come over to a fat girl or boy and invite him or her to the team where they could meet the marvelous trainer Antipov who spent a year to convince Katya starting Sambo training. He admits he should make champions but his main goal is that his pupils are OK and not involved in troubles.
As to her plans for the nearest future, Ekaterina Keyb wants to be an Olympic champion. But her essentials are to graduate from the college and start doing her own business. She thinks it may help the town which is suffering of closing its factories and the unemployment rate is very high. A businessman feed himself and his workers. She already has some experience – her parents are businessmen now – they work literally for 24 hours. Katya helps them, especially if heavy things have to be moved. Sometimes she sells goods in the market. Her neighbors ask if the champion doesn’t feel a shame to stand in the market. She answers: “Working is not a shame. Not working is a shame.”
Besides, Katya is overloaded by proposals from men, especially from foreigners. She is not ready for such important moves yet. She thinks she is too young. And her parents need assistance.
In 2006, Ekaterina won gold in the European championships, in the team competitions. In the individual tournament she was second to legendary Olesya Kovalenko.
Story about Russian Sumo star Ekaterina Keyb. "News Sky"
Photos by Ekaterina Ogarkova from the Russia National championship, 2006