'You do not have to be very fat'

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The 43-year-old, from Blackpool will travel to Tokyo today with Steve Pateman, Simon Smith, and Kevin Emslie to represent Britain in the fourth World Sumo Championships in Tokyo. Last year the 20-stone Etherington won bronze in the heavyweight division.

In Great Britain, I think people reckon sumo is just fat men fighting, but really the ones who have a little bit of nous about them like judo and martial arts enthusiasts can see the amount of strength and training involved. You don't just have to be very fat. In fact you can be relatively small if you have good balance and strength. Sumo wrestlers have to be very supple, and some of those massive Japanese men can actually do the splits you know, but I can't.

I was really far too old when I started at the age of 37. They have done it for their entire lifetime, and it is the endless stretching exercises they do that make them so supple.

The year before last I decided that at my age I should step aside and let some of the younger ones through to the World Championships, but the team that was chosen was poor and we didn't do very well. I was so disgusted that I thought I had to come back the following year - I got back into the team and last year I won bronze in the heavyweight division.

We have all got to try and do better than we did last year. I was beaten in the semi-finals last year by the Japanese lad who went on to win the competition, so I'm hoping that if I don't draw him again I could make it to the final. The Mongolians and the Russians will be the ones for us to beat in Tokyo. They have very strong sides and always put up good opposition.

I think next year the competition may want to branch out to Paris. Britain would be great and it's not an impossibility, but we need to get more people involved to have a chance of that happening. We need more competitors - people who can have a go and get down to the business of learning sumo. We get too many men who are 24-26 stones coming down to have a go because of their size - especially ex-wrestlers - and then they see it's not so easy and give up. Sometimes I just feel like saying, come on everybody, it's a great sport, so lets get down to it and get down to it seriously.