Yu Darvish gets all of the athletic headlines in his family these days, but he’s not the only one in his marriage who’s succeeded on a big stage in sports. Seiko Darvish, Yu’s wife, has her own athletic past as a wrestler in her native Japan. Despite twice taking time off to have children during her career, she was one of the best wrestlers Japan has ever seen, no small feat for a country that has long dominated the rest of the world in women’s wrestling.
For the moment, she’s playing the role of baseball fan as her husband attempts to help bring Los Angeles its first World Series title since 1988. The Dodgers are three wins away from defeating the Houston Astros and officially becoming baseball’s best in 2017.
Here are five things you need to know about Seiko Darvish.
1. She’s a Four-Time World Champion
From 1999 through 2003, Darvish was at the height of her talents on the wrestling mat, competing under her maiden name of Seiko Yamamoto. Over the course of four years, she defeated Erica Sharp of Canada, Tetyana Lazareva of Ukraine, Lubov Volosova of Russia and Natalia Ivashko of Russia, the last of which came when she moved up to the 59-kilogram weight class following three titles at the 55-kilogram class.
Despite her success as a wrestler at the world championships, she never got the chance to compete in the Olympics. The Olympics added women’s freestyle wrestling in 2004, but only had four weight classes for women at the time as opposed to seven in the world championships. That changed forced Darvish to drop to a lower weight class in 2004 and try to qualify against Saori Yoshida, the top wrestler at the 55-kilogram class. Darvish lost the final qualifier to Yoshida, who would become the first 55-kilogram Olympic gold medalist ever. When the next Olympics came about in 2008, Darvish didn’t attempt to qualify, having retired from the sport for the time being to focus on her family.
2. Wrestling is a Family Sport for Her Family
Wrestlers starting young in Japan is fairly common, as parents will commonly push their children into taking up the sport at an early age. She has said she started at the age of 3, and given her family’s prowess in the sport, it’s easy to see why.
Her father, Ikuei, represented Japan at the 1972 Olympics, finishing seventh in the competition. But it’s her siblings who have earned most of the fame along with her, specifically in the mixed martial arts area.
Her brother Norifumi competes in MMA as Kid Yakamoto, boasting a lifetime record of 18-6 over a career that has spanned the better part of two decades. Meanwhile, her older sister Miya dabbled in MMA and won three gold medals at the wrestling world championships, claiming the title in 1991, 1994 and 1995. She finished as runner-up in 1998 at the world championships, but rebounded a year later to win the 1999 Asian championships.
3. She’s Been a Coach in the United States
After the conclusion of her international career, Seiko Darvish made the move to the United States and began assisting the United States’ women’s freestyle wrestling team. With four world championships to her name, she was a logical choice to help lead a country that had earned medals before, but had never been able to get past the final match and earn a gold medal.
With Darvish working as her coach, American wrestler Helen Maroulis defeated Saori Yoshida, the same wrestler who kept Darvish out of the 2004 Olympics, by a 4-1 final at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, becoming the first American wrestler to win a gold medal in women’s freestyle. Not only did Maroulis become the first American wrestler to win Olympic gold, she also became the first wrestler from outside Japan to win a gold medal in one of the middle weight classes since women’s wrestling was added to the Olympics in 2004.
4. She’s Private About Her Life With Yu Darvish
In fact, she and her husband are so private that there is almost no record of their marriage or its details online. Their relationship wasn’t a secret, but even contemporary reports about Yu and Seiko Darvish report only that they are together and list Seiko Darvish as Seiko Yamomoto. That’s not a shocking thing, considering that the only reference they made to a wedding was when Seiko was pregnant with the couple’s first child. At that time, the Darvishes said that they would get married at the end of the baseball season, but did not have any plans to hold a wedding ceremony.
The one clue as to their wedding comes in Seiko Darvish’s social media account. Sometime after her wedding to Yu Darvish, Seiko Darvish began using her married name rather than her maiden name on her Twitter account. However, rather than changing her existing Twitter name on her Twitter handle of seiko0822, she opted to change her Twitter handle to seiko63 while keeping the seiko0822 account, which still exists.
But although the seiko0822 account with her maiden name still exists, she hasn’t used it since a post wishing followers a Happy New Year at the beginning of 2015. Conversely, her current account under Seiko Darvish has actively followed each of her husband’s starts as the Dodgers have fought their way through the playoffs.
She also used her newer account to post support for her husband after he was the target of a racial gesture from Yuli Gurriel of the Houston Astros. Yu Darvish focused on being positive rather than on being upset, and an internet translation of Seiko’s post suggests that she would follow his example despite being upset about the situation.
The couple is also private about their children. The Darvishes have two sons, born in 2015 and in 2017, but have not released their names to the general public. Neither Yu nor Seiko Darvish mentions their family on their Twitter feeds, and Seiko Darvish sets her Instagram to private.
5. Her Name is Very Similar to Yu Darvish’s First Wife’s
Long before Seiko Darvish met her husband, Yu Darvish was married to a woman with a similar name: the Japanese actress Saeko, who is known only by her given name rather than her surname.
Because of the similarity of the two women’s first names, it’s not uncommon for people to confuse the current wife of Yu Darvish with his ex-wife. In terms of looks, however, the two women look nothing alike, as Seiko Darvish has darker hair and stands three inches taller than her counterpart. Unlike Seiko Darvish, Saeko’s work has been limited exclusively to Japan, where she remains an actress.
Of course, Seiko Darvish has her own past with a celebrity spouse, as she was married to Japanese handball player Hideaki Nagashima from 2006 to 2014, having two children with him.
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