Hoshina heavy underdog against South Korean vet

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LONDON—This Filipino-Japanese school teacher loves sumo wrestling, looks like one, and incorporates the traditional Nippon martial art in his way of life.

Except that he’s a judoka to the bone.

Tomohiko Hoshina, the 22-year-old son of a Japanese soldier from Shizuoka Prefecture and a Filipino from Malolos, Bulacan, can be forgiven for taking a heavy, heavy lunch and then taking a nap—a training practice for sumo fighters wishing to bulge up.

“I love to eat before and after training, just like a sumo wrestler,” the 5-foot-11, 276-pound Hoshina once told a sports scribe when he and his mother visited Manila a couple of months ago to get his Olympic uniform and to touch base with the officials of the Philippine Olympic Committee and chief of mission Manny Lopez.

“I may not look like a Filipino but I am honored to represent my mother’s country of birth,” he added.

Hoshina steps onto the mat Friday morning the prohibitive underdog against South Korean veteran Kim Sung-min in one of the 29 matches in the plus-100 kg division of judo at ExCeL 2 Arena in Olympic Park here.

Hoshina earns about $3,500 teaching in a secondary school in Fuji City, where he started competing before the age of 10, encouraged by a similarly heavy set father who is a true-blue fan of judo.

“It is tough to qualify for an Olympic spot in Japan because there are many Olympic-grade judokas there,” Hoshina told Lopez through an interpreter. “I would like to thank the Philippines for embracing me as its own.”

His 6-3, 280 lb foe from Gyungki, Korea, boasts impressive credentials, including stints in the  Asian and world championships where he reached the final eight two years ago.

If he survives the Korean, Hoshina will battle either one of the two tallest entries in the division in the round of 16—Slovenia’s Matjaz Ceraj or Stanislav Bondarenko who are both 6-6.

Hoshina qualified to the London Games through what is called “continental allocation.” He secured the slot after garnering 27 ranking points during the 2011 world championship in Paris and the 2011 Asian tournament.

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