Japan's most decorated sumo wrestler Hakuho retires at 36

The most accomplished sumo wrestler in history calls it a career at 36. Hakuho, a native of Mongolia who came to Japan to practice sumo...

The most accomplished sumo wrestler in history calls it a career at 36.

Hakuho, a native of Mongolia who came to Japan to practice sumo at the age of 15, retires with more top championships, or yusho, than anyone in the history of the sport.

He won his first elite makuuchi title in 2006. A year later, he obtained the revered title of yokozuna, reserved for the greatest champions.

Hakuho went on to win at least one of the six best annual tournaments since, and generally did better than that: in 2010 and 2014, he won five of six. In 2015, he broke the record for 32 top-level victories set by Taiho in 1971. (Sumo’s history dates back 1,000 years, but the sport’s tournament system began in 1909.)

In recent years, however, Hakuho has struggled with a knee injury, and he tested positive for coronavirus in January, causing him to miss tournaments. He was warned by sumo authorities that missing so many events could lead to forced retirement.

But he backed down in July in Nagoya, in his only tournament of the year, to win his 45th career title. In the best tournaments, each wrestler has a fight every day for 15 days. Hakuho won his last event with a 15-0 record. It was his 16th “perfect win”, as an unbeaten tournament is called, a record too.

Hakuho’s prowess and record are undeniable. But he has occasionally ruffled feathers in his tradition-laden sport. In 2019, he urged the public to applaud after a tournament. But because the official ceremonies weren’t over yet, it was considered a violation of etiquette, and he was reprimanded by sumo authorities.

He has also been criticized for brutal tactics, including excessive slapping in the face and additional punches after a fight is over, not later than his farewell victory in July. He was also blamed for a maneuver in which he avoids an opponent who charges whose momentum then drives him out of the ring: a legal move, but considered not in the spirit of sumo, which values ​​face to face.

“Being a yokozuna comes with a greater responsibility, especially that of being a role model” Hironori Yano, said the head of the Yokozuna Deliberation Council in 2019.

Hakuho, 6 feet 4 inches and 350 pounds, is a tall man by most measures, but not huge in sumo. His main rival in recent years, Terunofuji, weighs over 400 pounds.

Born Mönkhbatyn Davaajargal, like other wrestlers, he received only one ring name: Hakuho means the White Peng, a giant bird from Japanese myth.

He was Mongolia’s latest success story, which produced many of the best sumo wrestlers of the century. A sport so intrinsic to the history and culture of Japan has undergone a seismic change in the 1990s, when the first successful foreigners emerged, first the Hawaiians and then the Mongols.

“Before the tournament, I didn’t expect to win the championship with a zero loss record at this age; I’m just relieved. Hakuho said after his victory in July. “But with this victory, I feel like I can fight again.”

But he missed the next tournament, this month, after several wrestlers in his team tested positive for the coronavirus. And age and injuries eventually led him to end his career.

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Newsrust - US Top News: Japan's most decorated sumo wrestler Hakuho retires at 36
Japan's most decorated sumo wrestler Hakuho retires at 36
Newsrust - US Top News
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