Austin Gansukh CEO of Mongolian Rugby updated Asia Rugby on the Michael Leitch scholarship for young Mongolian boy Norvoo Davaajav
In 2018, I was pleasantly surprised by an email sent to me by non-other than from Michael Leitch himself. We followed up with a phone call, where I was still a bit sceptical somehow until we finished the conversation.
In Japan, sumo wrestling is a huge national sport and part of Japanese pride. Since late 1990s young tough Mongolian boys were picked and chosen to be sent to Japan to wrestle in sumo wrestling competition and become a professional athlete.
In a very proud Japanese sumo culture, young Mongolians were moving higher in the ranks and become dominant wrestlers where 4 of the last Yokozuna (Grand champions) were Mongolians.
Within these 4 Yokozuna, Michael Leitch specifically looked at similarity with him and Mongolian sumo champion Hakuho where at a young age they were both not the biggest boys but eventually with hard work and dedication as well as athleticism Hakuho become so dominant that he broke all Sumo wrestling records since the sport’s inception.
Michael Leitch himself went to Japan at age of 15 to study and play rugby, eventually captaining the Japanese U18 national team and captaining the National senior 15s team.
This sparked the interest for Michael to identify and allow a young Mongolian boy to study and play rugby as he did when he first went to Japan and more importantly open a new opportunity for future Mongolian young talents to explore and play rugby professionally in Japan.
After coming to Mongolia in 2019 during Mongolian Snow Rugby competition in March where the temperature is still approximately minus 10 degrees
we had a set up our overall plan and the type of boy we are looking for. To identify, we promoted the opportunity nationwide through media sources.
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Although in some cases it was received with scepticism as rugby is still not a well-known sport yet, there were high interest even from younger age group.
Michael Leitch scholarship Recipient:Norovsambuu Davaajav (Norvoo)
After setting up trials, we chose the boy called Norovsambuu Davaajav (Norvoo) who is from the far western part of the country with some experience in wrestling.
Norvoo was kindly invited by Michael for the opening match of RWC 2019 to experience the world stage and watch the match between Japan and Russia where he captained his team into a successful win.
The experience was huge for Norvoo, who never left the country let alone even flew by airplane before.
Norvoo began full preparation for school but was hit by an arm injury followed COVID-19 where he was unable to travel in April when school was starting.
Despite all of the challenges, Michael Leitch wanted to get Norvoo to Japan as he promised.
Norvoo tried his best to make a full recovery and prepare his language skills. With the government taking strict measures during the pandemic, the government was able to lift some of the restrictions public gatherings which allowed Norvoo to get the visa and get the chartered flight to Japan.
Now the boy has the opportunity to change his as well as his family’s life and open up a new opportunity for future young Mongolian talents in the upcoming years.