[sumo] Where Wakanoho Has Landed
jeffand at regent.edu
Wed Nov 10 15:39:25 EST 2010
This article makes me wonder where he learned English good enough for college.
For of all sad words of tongue or pen,
The saddest are these:
It might have been. - John Greenleaf Whittier
Turning over a new leaf / Expelled Russian rikishi resurfaces on Fla. gridiron with lofty goal
John Gunning / Special to The Daily Yomiuri
In the summer of 2008, as the global economy approached meltdown, the sumo career of Soslan Aleksandrovich Gagloev, formerly known as Wakanoho, met a similarly spectacular and self-inflicted end.
Two years later, both are tentatively on the road to recovery.
For Gagloev that road leads through Webber International College in South Florida and (he hopes) on to a career as a defensive lineman in the NFL.
Now a slimmed-down 140 kilograms and playing in the small college NAIA, life could hardly be more different from 2008, when a lost wallet containing a marijuana cigarette led to his arrest and dismissal from sumo at the age of 20.
"I find it hard to put into words how deeply I regret what happened," Gagloev said by e-mail.
"There are so many lost dreams in the past. So many people believed in me. I invested an incredible amount of training and effort in sumo, but in one day everything collapsed.
"My mistake was that I relaxed. I began to pay more attention to the nightlife than to training. That killed me. I foolishly thought I'd still be able to become yokozuna. The only excuse I can offer is youth and perhaps an excessive trust in people."
Having come to Japan at 15, separation from his stablemates hit him particularly hard.
"We were a family. I love them very much and really miss them. With them I became who I am."
The next course of action came quickly to Gagloev however.
"On the plane back to Russia I knew where I'd go and what sport I'd do--American football."
Setting a lofty goal of making the NFL by someone who had never played the sport certainly seems like a daunting if not impossible task. Gagloev has reason to believe otherwise.
"I was doing judo in Russia when a friend put me in touch with the San Francisco 49ers. Head coach Mike Singletary invited me to come and watch the team. I was told I had all the physical attributes needed to be a professional football player, but lacked college experience and coaching.
An opportunity arose for Gagloev to enter Webber International, located in Babson Park, about 45 minutes from Disney World.
"But I needed to be patient. I had to lose 20 kilos, be able to run 40 meters in under five seconds, and learn all the rules of football. All together, training twice a day, it took me about a year."
Webber rose as high as 17th in the NAIA in October but is currently unranked at 6-4.
Life in the United States came with another difficulty.
"I really miss my family. I love my little home in Ossetia and often think about Russia. Sometimes it is hard to be without them, but at the same time, love for them is helping me towards a new goal.
"In the words of the great Mongolian Asashoryu--if you fight for your country and family, you can always win and reach the top.'"
In August this year, Gagloev achieved the targets set out for him and made the Warriors squad.
"The beginning of my plan has been realized. Killing the sumo wrestler, the football player has been born, and I hope I can achieve what I came to the U.S. to do."
Gagloev the football player hasn't completely abandoned Wakanoho the wrestler.
"Because of me, people have suffered. I failed my stablemaster. I have not had the courage to call him, but I really miss him and the time we spent together.
"If he reads this I want him to know that I will come back and see him, after I succeed in reaching the NFL."
(Nov. 11, 2010)
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