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From the water to the sumo ring for Liz Seward

Former Burroughs High water polo player represented the U.S. in the 2013 World Games in women's sumo.

August 02, 2013|By Jeff Tully, jeff.tully@latimes.com
(Courtesy of Liz…)

There is really no easy way to connect the dots linking the two sports Liz Seward has chosen to pursue in her life.

And the sports couldn't be more different.

When Seward, 25, graduated from Burroughs High in 2006, she was a decorated water polo player, earning first-team All-Area and all-league accolades. But after graduating from UC Irvine, she has decided to go in a completely different direction. Instead of using her talents in the pool, Seward now competes internationally in the martial art of sumo.

For nearly two weeks, Seward has been in Cali, Colombia, competing for the United States in the 2013 World Games. In the sumo competition, she took part in the women's middleweight event as well as the open division.

"My experience in water polo has definitely helped me with sumo wrestling," said Seward, who earned All-Almont League honors as a senior, scoring 38 goals. "I used to play set in polo, which is basically wrestling underwater. Also, both sports require strength, intensity, and are high impact."

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Sumo is a competitive, full-contact wrestling sport where an athlete attempts to force another out of a circular ring (dohyo) or to touch the ground with anything other than the soles of the feet. The sport originated in Japan, the only country where it is practiced professionally.

It wasn't like Seward sought out to be a sumo wrestler. On the contrary, it was by accident that the former Indian player ended up competing in the sport.

After college graduation, Seward taught English abroad in Japan. When she returned to the United States 12 months ago she attended an alumni function where she took part in a "let's learn sumo" event.

"I enjoyed it so much I asked if I could attend their practices on a regular basis," Seward said. "As it would turn out, the USA women's sumo team still needed members to attend the World Games in Colombia this July, and they asked me to join."

Once acclimated to the sport, Seward said she was hooked.

"I love the intensity of sumo," She said. "When you step into the dohyo and face your opponent, you have to have a lion heart. The matches happen so quickly that there's barely time to think, you just have to feel the balance and strength of the other person.

"Some say sumo is the 'martial art with heart,' and for me each match feels like a heart-to-heart dialogue with my opponent."

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