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Local sumo wrestler proves successful athletes come in all sizes

Local sumo wrestler proves successful athletes come in all sizes
IDAHO FALLS, Idaho (KIFI/KIDK) -
An Idaho Falls woman isn't letting her small size stop her from being the reigning champ in the big leagues.
 
Janna Van Witbeck is proving that successful athletes come in all shapes and sizes.
 
You wouldn't know it just by looking at her, but she holds the record for being the smallest competitor at the Sumo World Championships. 
 
Witbeck has been practicing judo for 27 years.
 
Two years ago, with a little convincing from a friend, she decided to give sumo a try. As it turns out she's quite good.
 
In her second year competing in sumo, she won a national title.
 
She is also tied for the record of most international wins in the women's division.
 
ln her most recent achievement she competed in the U.S. Sumo Open in Long Beach, California, which is the biggest sumo tournament in the world outside of Japan.
 
Witbeck said, "It's surreal and really fun especially since I'm new to the sport."
 
Years ago Idaho was ranked as one of the top teams in the nation and held the position for about a decade.
 
As of now, there are only three individuals in Eastern Idaho who are actively practicing in the sumo sport at a competitive level.
 
Witbeck owns and runs judo school as an instructor at Blue Line Judo in Idaho Falls.
 
Though she primarily teaches judo, her sumo achievements has caught the interest of some of her students. 
 
"I always encourage all my judo students to compete in sumo competitions. It's a concentrated place where you can really just work on the mental side of the competitions," said Witbeck. 
 
With more people taking interest in the sport it may be the spark needed to rebuild the East Idaho sumo participation. 
 
If you are interested in learning more about sumo, Witbeck is welcoming visitors to stop by her school to answer questions. 
 

She does request that those who stop by respect her school hours and only come in on Monday or Wednesday between 3:30 to 8 p.m. and Saturday from 11 a.m to 1 p.m.

Blue Line Judo is located at 740 W. Broadway St., Idaho Falls, ID 83402.

 
 

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