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Friday, March 17, 2000
Yokozuna Wakanohana announces retirement
OSAKA -- Injury-prone yokozuna Wakanohana announced his retirement from sumo Thursday night after staying at the summit of the traditional Japanese sport for nearly two years along with younger brother Takanohana.
The announcement came hours after the 29-year-old Wakanohana suffered his third loss in a lopsided bout five days into the Spring Grand Sumo Tournament at Osaka Prefectural Gymnasium at the hands of sekiwake Tochiazuma.
Stablemaster and father Futagoyama said he accepted Wakanohana's decision to retire during discussions after Thursday's bouts and will make a formal resignation offer to the Japan Sumo Association on Friday.
"I've found it hard to keep my mental toughness that can make up for my lack of physical strength. I decided to call it quits on my way back (from the gymnasium) after losing today's bout," Wakanohana said at a hastily arranged press conference.
Making his professional debut at the same Osaka tourney in 1988 together with younger brother Takanohana and Akebono, two of the current grand champions, Wakanohana swiftly climbed up sumo's pecking order and reached the elite makuuchi division in November 1990.
However, Wakanohana's subsequent path to the top was at a snail's pace, due partly to his diminutive physique for a sumo wrestler -- weighing about 130 kg and standing 181 cm.
He spent 47 tournaments in the makuuchi division while retaining the second highest rank of ozeki for 29 basho, the third longest spell spent waiting for yokozuna promotion.
In May 1998, Wakanohana finally joined Takanohana as the first pair of siblings in history to share sumo's ultimate rank after winning back-to-back tournaments for his fourth and fifth Emperor's Cups -- and the final two -- of his career.
Sitting out or withdrawing from six of 10 tournaments as yokozuna, Wakanohana entered the dohyo in Osaka knowing it would be a do-or-die occasion for his career after receiving an ultimatum from senior JSA elders and members of the powerful Yokozuna Deliberation Council.
The council, an advisory body to JSA chairman Tokitsukaze, advised Wakanohana last fall to keep away from the dohyo until he regained full fitness after finishing last year's Autumn Grand Sumo Tournament with a disastrous 7-8 record.
Wakanohana, who was wrestling the final five bouts of that tourney with a torn thigh muscle, became only the second yokozuna to fail to collect a majority of wins in a 15-day grand sumo meet.
He skipped the next two tournaments in the runup to the ongoing spring tournament.
Yokozuna pair flop
OSAKA -- Grand champions Wakanohana and Akebono both nosedived again Thursday, but Musashigawa stable trio Musashimaru, Dejima and Miyabiyama all won to boost their records to 4-1 at the Spring Grand Sumo Tournament.
Meanwhile, joint overnight leader Musoyama, another Musashigawa star, muffed his lines against Mongolian Kyokutenho and was unable to keep pace with rank-and-filers Toki and Takatoriki, who improved to a perfect 5-0 in the 15-day meet at Osaka Prefectural Gymnasium.
Another warm ovation from a packed arena did little to help an out-of-sorts Wakanohana, who fell victim to a calculated attack from sekiwake Tochiazuma and was quickly shoved out, leaving both wrestlers at 2-3.
It was a case of deja vu for Akebono, who was caught with his hands in the cookie jar for the second straight day as he overreached at the faceoff, allowing newly promoted sekiwake Miyabiyama to slip to the side and claim an easy win.
Akebono, who won the last of his nine championships in May 1997, tried to apply the brakes, but Miyabiyama cleverly moved in from the side to bump the Hawaiian-born giant out for his second loss of the tourney.
Yokozuna Takanohana, aiming for his 21st Emperor's Cup, again had trouble getting to grips with a slippery opponent, but once he latched onto the belt of third-ranked maegashira Kotoryu (2-3), win No. 4 was never in doubt.
Komusubi Tosanoumi (2-3) gave Musashimaru a serious workout, but the Samoan-born yokozuna dug in and slapped down his exhausted opponent at the edge to keep his place in the six-man chasing pack.
Sekiwake Musoyama, sniffing an ozeki promotion after winning his first Emperor's Cup at the New Year tourney in January, lost the plot against No. 2 maegashira Kyokutenho, who resorted to Hail Mary tactics to break a four-day duck.
Surprisingly, Musoyama failed to anticipate his desperate opponent's sidestep at the charge and quickly found himself face-down on the dirt surface.
Dejima made short work of No. 4 maegashira Minatofuji (1-4) to up his record to 4-1, but fellow ozeki Chiyotaikai and Takanonami both crumpled under pressure and dropped to 2-3.