Pioneering Hawaiian-born sumo champion Akebono dies aged 54

Pioneering Hawaiian-born sumo champion Akebono dies aged 54

Tributes have been paid in Japan to Akebono, the primary overseas wrestler to achieve the head of the game of sumo, who has died aged 54.

The wrestler, who was born Chad Rowan in Hawaii, is considered a pioneer after he broke down cultural limitations within the centuries-old sport to turn out to be the primary non-Japanese yokozuna grand champion in 1993.

He received 11 main sumo tournaments, that are held six instances a yr, earlier than retiring in 2001 and turning to Okay-1 {and professional} wrestling. He was runner-up at 13 different tournaments, regardless of being affected by harm.

Japanese media mentioned the wrestler, who took the identify Taro Akebono when he grew to become a Japanese citizen in 1996, had died of coronary heart failure this month, citing an announcement by the US Forces in Japan.

Rahm Emanuel, the US ambassador to Japan, mentioned he was “deeply saddened” by the information.

He mentioned in a submit on X that the wrestler, who was 203cm (6ft 8in) tall and weighed 233kg (514lb) at his heaviest, was “a large on the planet of sumo, a proud Hawaiian and a bridge between america and Japan.

“When Akebono grew to become the first-ever foreign-born grand champion … he opened the door for different overseas wrestlers to search out success within the sport.

Hawaii-born Akebono celebrates his tenth match championship along with his household and supporters in 2000. {Photograph}: Koichi Ueda/AP

“All through his 35 years in Japan, Akebono strengthened the cultural ties between america and his adopted homeland by uniting us all via sport. I ship my sincerest condolences to his household and associates and to sumo followers in every single place.”

Akebono, who was a well-known face on Japanese TV, entered the sumo world in 1988, turning into the sixty fourth yokozuna on the New Yr match in Tokyo in January 1993. He grew to become a steady grasp after retiring as a wrestler in 2001.

One of many heaviest and tallest rikishi, or wrestlers, within the sport’s historical past, Akebono and his fellow Hawaiian behemoth, the 287kg Konishiki, paved the way in which for a gradual stream of overseas wrestlers, together with 5 yokozuna from Mongolia.

Many sumo followers will bear in mind Akebono for his fierce Nineties rivalry with the favored Japanese brothers and members of the sumo aristocracy, Takanohana and Wakanohana, each of whom went on to turn out to be grand champions.

Akebono is survived by his spouse, daughter and two sons.

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