Egyptian Sumo Wrestler’s Backflip Ignites Alabama Championship Confrontation
On a hot Saturday night in Birmingham, a 23-year-old Egyptian sumo wrestler forced his opponent out of a circular ring. Having won the gold medal bout, he cried out in victory and did a backflip, to the delight of the audience—and the consternation of match officials, who swiftly disqualified him for unsportsmanlike conduct.
The call, made this weekend at Alabama’s Boutwell Auditorium, angered the wrestler, Abdelrahman Elsefy, who refused to exit the ring. But no one was more incensed than his coach, ex-wrestler Ōsunaarashi Kintarō, who spent the next two minutes bellowing out his frustration.
“It wasn’t an act, but the guy was a character all the same,” wrote Joseph Goodman, an AL.com columnist who said he watched the meltdown from 20 feet away. “He even took off his shirt.”
Kintarō, a 30-year-old Egyptian, even stepped into the ring, or dohyō, at one point, prompting a sharp rebuke from a female announcer. Footage of the episode showed at least five law enforcement officer surrounding and corralling him away from the mat as he continued to shout.
The crowd at Boutwell Auditorium were roaring in response to the disqualification, which was called “the harshest unsportsmanlike conduct penalty I’ve ever seen” by a staff writer for The Ringer covering the games. According to Goodman, the audience began to chant in support of Kintarō and his wrestler: “E-gypt! E-gypt! E-gypt!”
The World Games, which comprise a series of non-Olympic sports (alongside sumo, there are roller-skating, tug-of-war, and korfball competitions), began on Thursday in Birmingham. Saturday night’s lightweight sumo championship match had pitted Elsefy against Demid Karachenko, a Ukrainian wrestler.
Karachenko was declared the winner of the match after Elsefy’s disqualification. But the ruling was reversed, according to Goodman, after the protests from Kintarō and the crowd.
“How much more exciting could it get?” the female announcer asked.
Elsefy and Karachenko strong-armed each other out of the dohyō, leading judges to declare the Ukrainian the rematch’s winner at first, according to a journalist for 1819 News. But replays of the fight’s final seconds, which showed Karachenko’s toes touching the mat outside the ring first, reversed their decision.
“I knew I was going to win again,” Elsefy told Goodman.
Karachenko was awarded the silver alongside his Ukrainian teammate, Sviatoslav Semykras, who had already been declared the bronze medal winner. When Elsefy climbed onto the podium to accept his gold medal, he was markedly more reserved, only raising a fist to acknowledge the win.
“He’s my dude,” Kintarō explained to Goodman. The coach added solemnly that he had been coaching the 23-year-old for less than a day.