Photo Essays | Society | East Asia

The World Sumo Championships in Mongolia

Mongolia hosts its first major international competition for a sport in which its athletes shine.

Peter Bittner
The World Sumo Championships in Mongolia

A Mongolian wrestler, Byambajav Ulambaray, tosses his lighter Ukrainian opponent from the ring as photographers’ flashbulbs illuminate his path.

Credit: Peter Bittner
The World Sumo Championships in Mongolia

The parking lot overflowed at Ulaanbaatar’s iconic Buyant Ukhaa Sports Palace on Saturday, the venue for the international competition.

Credit: Peter Bittner
The World Sumo Championships in Mongolia

Mongolian Sumo Grand Champion, Hakuhō Shō, born Mönkhbatyn Davaajargal, gave remarks at the opening ceremony to raucous applause from the hometown crowd on Saturday morning.

Credit: Peter Bittner
The World Sumo Championships in Mongolia

Wrestlers warm up in practice rings next to the main atrium.

Credit: Peter Bittner
The World Sumo Championships in Mongolia

Fans cheer in the stadium’s upper deck as they watch the matches begin to unfold.

Credit: Peter Bittner
The World Sumo Championships in Mongolia

A Mongolian and Ukrainian prepare to face-off in the men’s team competition. Mongolia placed second, while Ukraine tied for third with Japan.

Credit: Peter Bittner
The World Sumo Championships in Mongolia

American Roy Sims, left, and an opponent crouch low before the match begins. Sims finished third in the men’s open division.

Credit: Peter Bittner
The World Sumo Championships in Mongolia

American Roy Sims throws his Georgian opponent from the ring in the men’s open competition.

Credit: Peter Bittner
The World Sumo Championships in Mongolia

Japan’s Emi Inaba and Mongolia’s Sundijmaa Khishigdorj grapple in the team competition, as exhaustion sets in.

Credit: Peter Bittner
The World Sumo Championships in Mongolia

The local fan section cheers as a Mongolian wrestler defeats his opponent. A Mongolian man, standing, raises a cup of vodka to the victory.

Credit: Peter Bittner
The World Sumo Championships in Mongolia

A Japanese World Sumo Federation official watches from the sideline bench.

Credit: Peter Bittner
The World Sumo Championships in Mongolia

Grimacing in defeat, a heavyweight wrestler shakes his head as his opponent, Eduard Kudzoev, is awarded the win.

Credit: Peter Bittner
The World Sumo Championships in Mongolia

The Russian sumo team celebrates its victory as the second-place Mongolians and third-place Japanese athletes look on.

Credit: Peter Bittner
The World Sumo Championships in Mongolia

Mongolian women, dressed in ornate traditional costumes, assist in presenting the victorious wrestlers with their medals and certificates.

Credit: Peter Bittner
The World Sumo Championships in Mongolia

The Mongolian open division sumo champion, Turbold Baasansuren, is interviewed on national TV.

Credit: Peter Bittner

In the past decade, Mongolian Sumo wrestlers have dominated the upper echelons of the professional circuit in Japan. However, the 21st World Sumo Championships held last weekend was the first major international competition Mongolia has hosted for the sport. The amateur tournament was put on by the International Sumo Federation, which is recognized by the International Olympic Committee, and took place on July 30. Women and men competed in separate events with four weight classes: lightweight, middleweight, heavyweight, and open (no weight restrictions).

The competition came hot off the heels of the massive Asia-Europe Summit, during which President Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj declared his country’s goal of hosting the 2050 Olympic games. At the World Sumo Championships, Mongolia continued to show the world it can put on a great show.