A BARNSLEY man has been selected to represent Great Britain at the World Sumo Wrestling Championships in Japan – a year after taking up the sport.

Richard Riggs, from Higham, only started competing last October but is now part of a three-man team that will head to Tokyo this October.

Sumo – known around the world for its distinctive kit and the size of its competitors – is the national sport of Japan which is the only country where it is practiced professionally.

“It’s a bit of a different one isn’t it?” said the 33-year-old, who works as a planning officer for a local authority.

“I have played a couple of sports before but I wanted to find something new.

“I saw a couple of videos on YouTube then found a club down in Derby.

“I just thought ‘I’ll give it a try’ and it’s led to this.

“It’s a bit of a surprise. I wasn’t expecting to go to the World Championships.”

Richard has learned a lot about the sport in the last eight months, travelling regularly down to GB Sumo in Derby.

“It’s been a very steep learning curve.

“I have done martial arts before, and played rugby for Wortley, which all helps with the basic physics of it.

“It’s very simple.

“There are the usual no punching, kicking and biting rules but pretty much anything else goes and the first one to touch the floor with anything other than the soles of your feet is out.

“Fights can last anywhere from a second to a minute and a half.

“It’s very very dynamic and all about that initial hit. If you get that right then, nine times out of ten, you will win.”

Richard is excited for the opportunity to represent his country in his new sport.

“I won a ten-man tournament last month to book my place on the plane for the team event.

“We have a full team now including the European champion. We are hoping to book our places for the individual events later in the month.

“It’s fantastic. When else would you get a chance to go to Japan for a couple of weeks? It’s completely different but very very welcome.”

Richard can see himself competing in sumo for years to come. He said: “I think I will do it for a while. I am 33 and some of the best players in the country now are in their 40s. There are a good bunch of people who do it. It’s quite a close community with not many people doing it for fairly obvious reasons.

“Nationwide there are probably about 100 people doing it. There are five clubs across England and Scotland.”