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Hakuho Eyes Promotion to Yokozuna (July 13, 2006)

Mongolian sumo wrestler Hakuho (Jiji)
At the sumo tournament scheduled for July in Nagoya, ozeki (the second-highest rank) Hakuho is looking to do well enough to earn a promotion to yokozuna (highest rank). In the summer tournament in May, he set a record for an ozeki, winning 14 of his 15 bouts, and a promotion should be in his future if he repeats this feat in Nagoya. Some say that even if he wins 13 bouts, he could be promoted depending on the dominance of his performance. A promotion would mean Hakuho passing through the ozeki rank in just two tournaments, something that has never been done since the system of six annual tournaments was established in 1958.

A Wrestling Family
Hakuho intends to become the second currently active yokozuna, alongside Asashoryu - who, like Hakuho, hails from Mongolia. In the spring tournament in March 2006, Hakuho found himself in a playoff with Asashoryu. The TV viewer rating for the bout in Mongolia was a stunning 93%. Hakuho explains: "When sumo is on, Mongolians stop working, and there are fewer cars on the road." A sumo boom has been sparked, and the country's wrestling fans are passionate supporters of their compatriots in Japan.

Becoming a yokozuna is quite possible for Hakuho. Asashoryu, the eastern yokozuna, is always well prepared and is a formidable wrestler, but Hakuho hopes to join him as the western yokozuna soon and then topple him as the number-one sumo star.

Hakuho Sho's real name is Munkhbat Davaajargal, and he was born in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, on March 11, 1985. He first took part in a sumo tournament in Japan in March 2001, and he was promoted to the juryo division in January 2004. He made his way into the makuuchi division (the highest) in May that year. He immediately attracted attention for his strong yori (body push) and his powerful nage (throwing technique), and a number of observers referred to him as a "future yokozuna." He moved up through the ranks quickly. With Asashoryu out injured for most of the 2006 summer tournament, Hakuho dominated and walked away with the trophy. At the age of 21 years and 2 months, Hakuho became the fourth-youngest sumo wrestler ever to win a tournament after Takahanada (later known as Takanohana), Taiho, and Kitanoumi.

Hakuho's father, Munkhbat, was a grand champion in Mongolian wrestling and a national hero. Hakuho, though, had practically no experience in Mongolian sumo when he was invited to Japan by former wrestler Kyokushuzan six years ago. As he is just 175 cm tall and weighed just 68 kg at the time, he had a difficult time trying to find a stable that would accept him. The day before he was to return to Mongolia, though, Kyokushuzan asked Miyagino, a sumo stable-master, to train him. Without having any idea who his father was, the master and the wrestlers in the stable soon grew to appreciate Hakuho's strength. Both his size and his rank grew quickly.

Hakuho downs an opponent at the Nagoya sumo tournament. (Jiji)

A New Rival Appears
As Hakuho aims for promotion to yokozuna, another rising star has appeared in the shape of Estonian wrestler Baruto. Baruto, who is also 21 years old, is said to be the strongest active sumo wrestler. He made his debut in the makuuchi division in the May tournament, racking up an impressive 11 wins to put himself among the contenders.

Hakuho appears to be aware that he will be seeing a great deal of Baruto in the future. Asked which wrestler most concerns him, Hakuho answered "Baruto" without any hesitation. The sumo world at present features Mongolian wrestlers like Asashoryu and Eastern European wrestlers like Kotooshu. Most of them are still young, so their best days may yet be ahead of them.

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Copyright (c) 2006 Web Japan. Edited by Japan Echo Inc. based on domestic Japanese news sources. Articles presented here are offered for reference purposes and do not necessarily represent the policy or views of the Japanese Government.

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