Asashoryu, sumo's sixty-eighth yokozuna, performs a ceremonial ring entrance. (Jiji)
KING OF THE RING:
Asashoryu Becomes First Mongolia-Born Yokozuna
March 26, 2003
When the annual Spring
Grand Sumo Tournament got underway in Osaka on March 9, all eyes were
on Asashoryu, the Mongolia-born Sumo wrestler who had just been promoted
to yokozuna (the top rank in sumo) in January
following the New Year Grand Sumo Tournament. Asashoryu, whose real name
is Dolgorsuren Dagvadorj, is the first yokozuna
to hail from Mongolia. Sumo fans, who were somewhat sad following the
retirement of the great yokozuna
Takanohana midway through the January tournament, were eager to see
the new 22-year-old yokozuna climb into the
ring for the first time since reaching the top rank.
Rapid Rise Through the Ranks
The New Year Grand Sumo Tournament was Asashoryu's second consecutive
championship, and soon afterward he earned promotion to the rank of yokozuna
(the second-highest rank). Asashoryu is the third foreign-born yokozuna
and Musashimaru, both of whom came from the United States. He made his
debut in the ring five years ago, and his promotion to yokozuna after
only 25 tournaments is the fastest rise in the history of sumo, eclipsing
the old mark of 30 that had been held by Akebono.
Asashoryu is relatively light for a sumo wrestler, weighing in at 137
kilograms (301 pounds), almost 20 kilograms (44 pounds) lighter than the
average wrestler in the makuuchi (top) division.
But he has overcome this handicap by utilizing his quickness and well-developed
techniques in the ring, and this wiry wrestler now stands atop the
There are a number of traditional ceremonies that
a wrestler must take part in once he is promoted to yokozuna.
At the ceremony in which messengers of the Nihon Sumo Kyokai (Japan Sumo
Association) officially informed him of his promotion, Asashoryu wore
formal Japanese clothes and responded in fluent Japanese, "I will
do my utmost as a yokozuna for the development
of sumo." And at a sumo ritual at the Meiji Shrine marking his promotion,
Asashoryu wore the pure white tsuna (heavy
braided belt made of linen) that yokozuna
wear when they enter the ring. He deftly performed the Unryu style of
ring entrance that the yokozuna belonging
to the Takasago stable have traditionally performed.
Following his promotion, Asashoryu made a triumphant homecoming to his
native Mongolia. The country's national sport - Mongolian wrestling
- is somewhat similar to sumo, and Asashoryu was given a hero's welcome.
He received congratulations from many people, including the country's
prime minister. Asashoryu responded to the acclaim by saying, "I'll
do my best as the first Asian yokozuna from
outside of Japan."
Asashoryu came to Japan in 1997 and studied at Meitoku Gijuku High School
in Kochi Prefecture after having been scouted in Mongolia by Toshiyuki
Hamamura, who was the coach of the school's sumo club. "He had spring
in his muscles unlike anyone else, and I really wanted to bring him to
Japan," explains Hamamura. As for his expectations of Asashoryu as
a yokozuna, he says: "He has the capacity
to become even stronger. He should stay humble and work to become a great
yokozuna." Sumo fans can look forward
to seeing how this young champion's career will play out.
Copyright (c) 2003 Japan
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