Sumo Wrestler, Kisenosato Yutaka broke several records within two years, after being an ‘Ozeki’ for 5years, In January 2017 he got promoted to the rank of grand champion, known in Japanese as “yokozuna” making him the first Japanese-born wrestler to make it in almost two decades, 2years after, Kisenosato announced his retirement, becoming the first Japanese-born yokozuna to retire in 16 years after struggling with injuries.
As a child, Kisenosato was a pitcher in his school’s baseball club before he chose to train as a wrestler at a stable in Tokyo. Young sumo wrestlers train in tightly-knit “stables” where they eat, sleep and practice together and are sometimes subjected to harsh treatment in the belief that it will toughen them up.
Kisenosato, whose real name is Yutaka Hagiwara, is from Ibaraki, north of Tokyo. The 32-year old made his professional debut in 2002 and reached Japan’s top Makuuchi division in 2004 at the age of 18.
Kisenosato, weighs 178kg (392 pounds), was an ozeki – the second-highest rank – since 2012.
In 2016, he secured the most wins in the calendar year, the first wrestler to do so without winning a tournament in that year.
After being runner-up on multiple occasions, he finally clinched his first tournament victory – and thereby his promotion to yokozuna – in January 2017. He was the first Japanese-born wrestler to make it since Wakanohana in 1998.
After his promotion to yokozuna, he said “I accept with all humility, I will devote myself to the role and try not to disgrace the title of yokozuna.” after the Japan Sumo Association formally approved him.
Kisenosato went on to win his first tournament as a yokozuna in March that year.
However, a chest muscle injury kept him out of eight straight tournaments in a row, the longest career pause of any yokozuna in sumo history.
On his return in September 2018, Kisenosato posted eight successive losses, the worst run of any grand champion since the competition format was introduced in 1949. “I was gradually recovering, but I was unable to wrestle in my own style,”
His battle with injuries continued, In January 2019, Kisenosato announced his retirement, becoming the first Japanese-born yokozuna to retire in 16 years. Kisenosato said he wanted to continue “I feel that I did everything I could,” a tearful Kisenosato admitted.
His retirement was a blow to Japan, as he was the last remaining home-grown sumo champion. In recent years, sumo has been hit by falling numbers of Japanese recruits, partly because it is seen as a tough, highly-regimented life.
The last Japanese-born wrestlers to reach the top were brothers Takanohana and Wakanohana, who made it to yokozuna in 1994 and 1998 respectively.