Hakuho, Japan’s Most Decorated Sumo Wrestler, Retires at 36

Essentially the most achieved sumo wrestler in historical past is looking it a profession at age 36.

Hakuho, a local of Mongolia who got here to Japan to pursue sumo at age 15, retires with extra top-level championships, or yusho, than anybody within the sport’s historical past.

He received his first title at the elite makuuchi stage in 2006. A yr later he earned the revered title of yokozuna, reserved for the best champions.

Hakuho went on to win at least one of many six annual high tournaments yearly since, and often did higher than that: In 2010 and 2014, he received 5 of six. In 2015, he broke the file of 32 top-level wins set by Taiho in 1971. (Sumo’s historical past goes again 1,000 years, however the sport’s event system started in 1909.)

In recent times, although, Hakuho has struggled with a knee harm, and he examined constructive for coronavirus in January, inflicting him to overlook tournaments. He was warned by the sumo authorities that lacking so many occasions may result in pressured retirement.

However he rolled again the years in July in Nagoya, in his solely event of the yr, to take his forty fifth profession title. In high tournaments, every wrestler has a bout every day for 15 days. Hakuho received his last occasion with a 15-0 file. It was his sixteenth “excellent victory,” as a event with no losses is named, additionally a file.

Hakuho’s prowess and file are simple. However he generally ruffled feathers in his tradition-laden sport. In 2019, he urged the viewers to clap after a event. However as a result of the official ceremonies weren’t but over, this was seen as breach of etiquette, and he was admonished by the sumo authorities.

He has additionally been criticized for rough tactics, together with extreme slapping within the face and giving additional shoves after a bout was over, as lately as his valedictory win in July. He has additionally been faulted for a maneuver through which he sidesteps a charging opponent whose momentum then carries him out of the ring: a authorized transfer, however one thought of not within the spirit of sumo, which values head-to-head confrontation.

“Being a yokozuna comes with larger duty, together with appearing as a job mannequin,” Hironori Yano, the pinnacle of the Yokozuna Deliberation Council, mentioned in 2019.

Hakuho, at 6 ft 4 inches and 350 kilos, is an enormous man by most measures, however not monumental in sumo. His chief rival lately, Terunofuji, weighs greater than 400 kilos.

Born Mönkhbatyn Davaajargal, like different wrestlers he was given a single ring identify: Hakuho means the White Peng, an enormous chook of Japanese fable.

He was the newest success story from Mongolia, which has produced lots of the greatest sumo wrestlers of the century. A sport so intrinsic to Japan’s historical past and tradition underwent a seismic shift within the Nineteen Nineties when the primary profitable foreigners emerged, first Hawaiians after which Mongolians.

“Earlier than the event, I by no means anticipated to win the championship with a file of no defeats at this age; I’m simply relieved,” Hakuho said after his victory in July. “However with this victory, I’m feeling I can battle once more.”

However he missed the following event, this month, after a number of wrestlers in his steady examined constructive for the coronavirus. And age and accidents have lastly led him to name a halt to his profession.

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