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Other Sports – 1979 – Barrell Jumping World Cup + Sumo Wrestling Grand Nationals


Barrel jumping was never an Olympic sport….although it is a sport indeed….which has been covered on ABC’s Wide World of Sports….as seen in this video herewith….and as the name implies….it’s all about jumping over barrels on ice skates. The skater circles the rink a few times to pick up speed….when at about 30 mph….the athlete tries to leap over a batch of fiberglass barrels placed side by side by side on the ice. The jumper must leap about five or six feet into the air to make it over after launching themselves much like an airplane. The world record is like 18 barrels. 

“We must have speed and guts,” says Gilles Leclerc, president of the Canadian Barrel Jumping Federation….which tried for about 25 years to get the sport included in the Olympics.  According to Outside magazine, the federation sent a jumper to a Lillehammer winter-sports festival in 1992…but to no avail….as the demo was canned because of fears the fellow would hurt himself….so, a video was shown instead….as Olympic officials were not convinced saying “It appeared to be a brutal sort of sport where almost nobody really makes it….and everybody seems to fall on their backside.” Leclerc, a former Canadian champion, says barrel jumping isn’t dangerous, because the experts wear specially padded bodysuits and know how to land without hurting themselves. Even so, Leclerc says, the notion of barrel-jumping Olympians is dead. “We cannot do it,” he says. “Now there are fewer countries, and the people are discouraged. When you are refused all the time, all the good jumpers stop training. Instead of going forward, we are going back.”….which makes this Barrel Jumping World Cup video a rare piece of history….after being saved for posterity.

Sumo wrestling is a competitive full-contact wrestling sport where a rikishi (wrestler) attempts to force another wrestler out of a circular ring (dohyō) or into touching the ground with anything other than the soles of his feet. The Chinese characters 相撲 literally mean “striking one another”.  

The sport originated in Japan….where even today in 2018 is the only country where it is practiced professionally. It is generally considered a gendai budō or a modern Japanese martial art….but this definition is misleading….as the sport has a history spanning many centuries. Many ancient traditions have been preserved in sumo….which is continued even today….as the sport includes many ritual elements such as the use of salt purification from Shinto. 

Life as a wrestler is highly regimented….with rules regulated by the Japan Sumo Association….whereas most sumo wrestlers are required to live in communal sumo training stables….which are known in Japanese as heya….as a place where all aspects of their daily lives from meals to their manner of dress are dictated by strict tradition.  

From 2008 to 2017, a number of high-profile controversies and scandals have rocked the sumo world….with an associated effect on its reputation and ticket sales….which have also affected the sport’s ability to attract recruits. Despite this setback, sumo’s popularity and general attendance has rebounded due to having multiple yokozuna or grand champions for the first time in a number of years….with high-profile wrestlers such as Endō and Ichinojō grabbing the public’s attention.

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