Hakuho, Sumo’s Most Embellished Champion, Exits the Ring

Probably the most achieved sumo wrestler in historical past is asking 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 on 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 no less than 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 report 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 damage, and he tested positive for coronavirus in January, inflicting him to overlook tournaments. He was warned by the sumo authorities that lacking so many occasions may result in compelled 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 closing occasion with a 15-0 report. It was his sixteenth “perfect victory,” as a event with no losses is known as, additionally a report.

Hakuho’s prowess and report are simple. However he typically 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 further shoves after a bout was over, as lately as his valedictory win in July. He has additionally been faulted for a maneuver during 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 greater responsibility, including acting as a role model,” Hironori Yano, the pinnacle of the Yokozuna Deliberation Council, mentioned in 2019.

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

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

He was the newest success story from Mongolia, which has produced most 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 Nineties when the primary profitable foreigners emerged, first Hawaiians after which Mongolians.

“Before the tournament, I never expected to win the championship with a record of no defeats at this age; I’m just relieved,” Hakuho said after his victory in July. “But with this victory, I am feeling I can fight again.”

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

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