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MH Interview: Sulaiman Yusof (SEA Games Rep in Wrestling)
Most Singaporeans probably don't even know that we have a national wrestling team, and all a lot of them know about wrestling are probably mistaken associations with entertainment wrestling.
Could you provide a brief introduction to your sport?
The difference between entertainment wrestling is that they do it for business and for money (which is understandable), whereas in the sport of wrestling, we do it for passion, for self-pride (because it’s really a competition) and (if given the chance) for the nation. Of course money is a bonus and also a good motivator but it's not main priority.
Sports wrestling is one of the oldest sports in the world and originated from the Greeks. It is one of the most demanding sports which challenges you physically and mentally against another opponent. There are two forms of wrestling recognised by the Olympics— Greco Roman and freestyle. Greco Roman wrestlers are not allowed to catch their opponents' legs for any techniques. They can only utilise upper body attacks, and it's for men only. In freestyle (my category), you just wrestle. The objective is to throw your opponent down to gain points and to pin him for victory.
With such little exposure, how is that you've come into the sport and are now representing the country in it?
Before wrestling, I did other combat sports and have been competing aggressively. I practised Judo, Silat, Brazilian Jiujitsu (BJJ), no-gi submission grappling, and combat & sports Sambo. It's quite a smooth transition moving from one grappling sport to another—only the rules and attire are different—and I only have to understand wrestling because it plays a major role in winning and losing.
The vice presdent of the Wrestling Federation of Singapore (WFS) came down to my gym at Budo Academy (www.budoacademy.net) and asked me if I would be interested in wrestling. So I started training in wrestling and went for trials and got selected to the national team. WFS is very serious about growing this sport here in Singapore. I've been really impressed with the support and the organisation they have provided to their athletes. They've built a great gym and facility in just one year, and even brought in two-time Olympic champion, Sergei Belaglazov, as our coach! I'm just grateful to be given this opportunity.
What in your opinion is it that makes a good wrestler?
A strong mind. This sport is very physical, but being physical can only take you so far. The mind, on the other hand, controls the body. The mind will tell the body to never give up during training and during competition. You have to always have a winning mentality. Your opponent might have bigger biceps or broader shoulders, or he might look ugly and mean, but if he's afraid, none of the physical aspects will matter. It's not the size of the dog in a fight, it's the size of fight in the dog.
What is your training regimen like with the national team?
We train in wrestling for two hours every weekday evening: We warm up, do drills, learn techniques and tactics and then we wrestle and do live sparring. And on every Monday, Wednesday and Friday morningss, we have weight and conditioning training for one and a half hours.
Do you have a strict diet regimen as well?
I train hard and push myself every training session, so I eat anything. But of course, it's not all guilty pleasures — I balance my diet. I don't have to cut weight for my category — my weight class is under 74kg and I am 73kg. It's good to be heavier and then cut your weight but I can't seem to move my weight. Nevertheless, I’m comfortable and ready.
What are some of the occupational hazards that come with being a competitive wrestlers? (Cauliflower ears seem to be a scary mark of wrestlers)
All sports come with their own set of common injuries. It is important to understand the common injuries in a specific sport to know what you are getting yourself into. This is where conditioning, training and the professional guidance and experience of your coaches and team come into play.
For wrestlers, as in most full contact sports, there's a tendency to incur cauliflower ears. This happens when you get into a clinch position and your ears get rubbed against your opponents body and the blood vessel in the ear breaks. Don't worry, you wont go deaf. In some places, its a mark of rank! But I'd rather not have any rank. Sometimes my ear swells and I just ice it. The swelling will go down. So far I have never had to drain my ears but many of my friends have done it.
What are your goals for the SEA Games, and how do you think the team and yourself will do?
Of course, I want to win gold and I know I have to work hard for it. As a team, we all want to win. As this is my first time in the SEA Games competing in wrestling, I am trying not to worry about my opponents. I don't want it to affect my game plan. I want to face my opponent by playing to my game instead of me worrying about his. People change all the time and I just want to concentrate on my game. We must never underestimate the opponents and respect them as trained athletes. I will do my best to beat anybody that stands across from me, for my country, my federation and my family.
Sulaiman Yusof represents Singapore in wrestling at the 25th SEA Games in Laos, which takes place from 9 to 18 December. Vist www.laoseagames2009.com for more information on schedules and results.
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