Quickly ascending the sport's ladder, Hakuho achieved sumo's highest rank, yokozuna, in 2007 at the age of 22. What followed was an unprecedented streak of success as he went on to collect a total of 45 tournament championships, smashing the previous record of 32 held by Japanese legend Taiho. He also set the record for most wins as a yokozuna and most total career wins with 1187. But recent years have seen him hampered by injuries. A combination of knee trouble and COVID-19 outbreaks in his stable forced him to miss all or part of six straight tournaments before he returned for his final competition this summer, winning the Nagoya Grand Sumo Tournament with a perfect 15-0 record.
In an epic final day match-up of unbeatens, sumo legend Hakuho defeated fellow Mongolian Terunofuji in an intense battle to claim a record 45th title at the Nagoya Grand Sumo Tournament Sunday in Japan. Both wrestlers had entered the bout with perfect 14-0 marks, one of the rare occasions the finals of a Grand Sumo Tournament featured two competitors with perfect records.
Hakuho came out of the blocks with an immediate forearm to Terunofuji's face followed by a slapping attack. After a belt grip, he secured an overhook on Terunofuji's right arm and finally forced him to the ground with an armlock throw to earn the championship.
At 36, Hakuho is currently the only wrestler holding the title of "yokozuna," sumo's highest rank. He'd been the subject of retirement speculation prior to Nagoya having withdrawn from the last six tournaments due to injury. Terunofuji had already staged his own comeback story. After falling from the sport's upper echelons following knee surgery, he battled back to ozeki status, sumo's second highest rank, winning the last two tournaments. It's believed his 14-1 record at Nagoya may be enough to insure him a promotion to yokozuna.
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Continuing his epic comeback story, sumo wrestler Terunofuji won the Summer Grand Sumo Tournament Sunday in a playoff match against Takakeisho. It was the third time in the last four tournaments that the championship came down to these two wrestlers.
Terunofuji entered the final day of competition in Tokyo with a one win lead but was quickly put down by Takakeisho in the event's final scheduled bout leaving both men with 12-3 records to set up the playoff. The Mongolian wrestler returned the favor putting Takakeisho down to claim the fourth Emperor's Cup championship of his career. Terunofuji had been dropped from the sport's elite ranks in 2017 following a series of knee injuries and finally returned to ozeki status - sumo's second-highest level - after winning the Spring Grand Sumo Tournament in March. With a win at the upcoming July tournament, he may now have a chance to vault all the way to sumo's top rank of yokozuna.
Japanese sumo wrestler Hibikiryu died at a Tokyo hospital Wednesday, a month after being injured and left unaided for a time following a match. Hibikiryu, whose real name is Mitsuki Amano, was a low-ranked wrestler competing at the March Grand Sumo Tournament when he was thrown and landed head first on the ground. He lay motionless, face down, as officials seemingly milled around and then had to wait several minutes before a stretcher arrived to take him from the arena.
The official cause of death was given as acute respiratory failure and it's so far unclear if it was directly related to Hibikiryu's injury. But the sport's governing body, the Japan Sumo Association, has faced several scandals in recent years and is now receiving severe criticism over a perceived failure to protect wrestlers.