Japanese-Born Sumo Champion – First One in Past 19 Years
Japan is proud to have its first homegrown sumo grand champion in close to two decades. At 178 kg (392 pounds), Kisenosato trained at a sumo stable in Tokyo. He has held ozeki status, the second highest rank, since 2012 and gained grand champion status in January 2017.
The ultimate goal of any sumo wrestler is to become a yokozuna, or grand champion. Kisenosato, Japanese born, joins three other sumo wrestlers who are also yokozuna, but the other three are all Mongolian.
The last Japanese-born wrestlers to be yokozuna were two brothers who made it to the top in 1994 and 1998. Since then, only foreign wrestlers from Mongolia and American Samoa have succeeded in attaining this coveted status – until 2017 when a homegrown wrestler finally brought honor to Japan again.
Wrestlers at the top of the sport are expected to show honor and humility as role models for young people. Some recent wrestlers have been criticized for bad behavior.
Kisenosato has said, “My behavior at the training ring and the way I carry myself will be scrutinized. I want to become a role model for the younger wrestlers.”
It took 73 tournaments for 30-year-old Kisenosato to be promoted to yokozuna, more than any wrestler since 1926. He finished in second place 12 times. But he persevered and finally gained the rank that he has long worked for.