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Thursday, May 31, 2007

Hakuho reaches sumo's summit

Mongolian-born wrestler becomes 69th grand champion

Kyodo News

Hakuho officially became the 69th grand champion in sumo history on Wednesday after the Japan Sumo Association finalized the promotion of the Mongolian wrestler at its executive committee meeting.

News photo
Mongolian-born sumo wrestler Hakuho, left, and his stable master, Miyagino, greet messengers from the Japan Sumo Association on Wednesday. The 22-year-old, whose given name is Munkhbat Davaajargal, was officially promoted to the rank of yokozuna grand champion at the ceremony. KYODO PHOTOS

JSA executives gave the nod to the promotion of Hakuho based on the recommendation unanimously made Monday by the members of the Yokozuna Deliberation Council, an advisory body to the association, after the 22-year-old won back-to-back tournament titles by capturing the Summer Grand Sumo Tournament title.

Hakuho, whose real name is Munkhbat Davaajargal, became the first yokozuna since compatriot Asashoryu was promoted after the New Year Grand Sumo Tournament in January 2003.

Sumo officials visited the Miyagino stable in Tokyo to notify Hakuho of his promotion shortly after the JSA sumo elders cut through the red tape with a unanimous decision.

"I humbly accept the decision," Hakuho said in a prepared speech as he knelt in front of the messengers sent by the JSA.

"I will maintain my willpower and focus on my way of sumo throughout my career and in order not to tarnish my status as yokozuna, I will continue to devote myself and pursue the spirit of sumo," he said, quoting part of a passage from a Japanese idiom meaning, "Where there's a will, there's a way."

Hakuho told reporters after the ceremony that he is determined to add his name to the list of great grand champions.

"I feel at last that I've got promoted. The phrase I used in response to the JSA officials has a good meaning, making me feel that I can achieve something exceptional as long as I go my own way," he said. "In order to be a great yokozuna, I'll keep polishing my own sumo style while improving on good spirit, technique and physical condition. That's what I have to do."

Hakuho is scheduled to perform a "dohyo-iri" ring-entering ceremony at Meiji Shrine in Tokyo on Friday as one of his first rituals as a grand champion.

A native of Ulan Bator, Hakuho convinced sumo officials after sealing his third career Emperor's Cup on Saturday and went on to finish the summer meet with a spotless 15-0 record by defeating archrival Asashoryu in convincing fashion on Sunday.

In the spring tourney in March, Hakuho beat Asashoryu in a championship playoff after both wrestlers finished tied at 13-2.

News photo
Hakuho, front, celebrates his promotion to yokozuna during a ceremony at his Tokyo stable on Wednesday. The Mongolian-born star was joined by his parents for the event.

At 22 years and two months, Hakuho is the third-youngest wrestler to reach sumo's summit. JSA Chairman Kitanoumi and fellow sumo great Taiho earned promotion to yokozuna when they were 21 years old.

Hakuho is also the fourth foreign-born yokozuna, following in the footsteps of Akebono from Hawaii, Samoan-born Musashimaru and Asashoryu, who has just ended his streak of being the lone grand champion for 21 consecutive tournaments.

At the Nagoya Grand Sumo Tournament in July, it will be the first time in sumo history that two Mongolians occupy both the east and west sides on top of the rankings at the same time.

Kitanoumi urged Hakuho to become a role model in the sport.

"He is still young at 22 but I hope he will put on an effort to wrestle as a role model for the other sumo wrestlers," Kitanoumi said. "He still has a long way to go in his career and hopefully he will refine his skills further."

Hakuho, son of Mexico Olympic freestyle wrestling silver medalist and Mongolian sumo legend Munkhbat Jigjid, made his professional debut in March 2001.



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