- Title: Japan hails first home-grown sumo grand champion in 19 years
- Date: 25th January 2017
- Summary: TOKYO, JAPAN (JANUARY 25, 2017) (REUTERS) EXTERIOR OF RYOUGOKU SUMO HALL WHERE SUMO TOURNAMENTS TAKE PLACE SUMO WRESTLERS WALKING INTO SUMO HALL GATES SIGN READING (English): "SITE OF TAWARABOSHI GEMBA'S STABLE" SECOND FLAG FROM THE LEFT WITH KISENOSATO'S NAME FLAPPING IN THE WIND (SOUNDBITE) (Japanese) 41-YEAR OLD TOKYO RESIDENT, YOSUKE AKATSUKA, SAYING: "When I was little, there were Japanese grand champions and then there was a gap for a while, so I am really glad this happened." (SOUNDBITE) (Japanese) 41-YEAR OLD SUMO FAN, RUMIKO TAKAHASHI, SAYING: "I caught the moment of victory at home (on TV), and as a Japanese person, I was so moved. He made steadfast effort, he persisted and that is why he was able to win the grand champion title." SUMO ILLUSTRATION SEEN OUTSIDE SUMO HALL JAPANESE FLAG WAVING IN THE WIND
- Embargoed: 8th February 2017 09:40
- Keywords: sumo grand champion kisenosato Japan wrestling
- Location: TOKYO, JAPAN
- City: TOKYO, JAPAN
- Country: Japan
- Topics: Sport,Sumo Wrestling
- Reuters ID: LVA00360KVUIN
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: Japan rejoiced on Wednesday (January 25) as sumo wrestler Kisenosato became the first Japanese born and bred grand champion in nearly two decades, ending foreign-born wrestlers' domination of the ancient sport's top rank.
Sumo, which features giant wrestlers clad only in loincloths, has seen such an influx of foreign grapplers over the last 50 years that prior to this week all three grand champions - known as yokozuna - were Mongolian. Hawaiian-born Americans have also held the rank.
Until January 2016 a home-grown rikishi, as the wrestlers are known, hadn't even won a tournament championship for 19 years.
But all this changed on Wednesday, when 30-year-old Kisenosato was promoted to yokozuna, becoming the first native Japanese to attain the sport's most exalted rank since 1998.
"I believe that last year was a year of growth for me, and I think that experience and result came out in this year's first tournament," said Kisenosato, after sumo elders gave the final stamp of approval to his promotion.
The ceremony continued on with a display of sea bream, which in Japan is a symbol of gratitude, and consumed at happy occasions.
Standing 1.87 metre (almost 6ft 2in) tall, and weighing 175 kg (385.8 lb), Kisenosato had a long history of crumbling under pressure in key bouts.
But on Sunday (January 22), he wept after securing the ultimate rank with his first-ever tournament win in a bruising bout with long-dominant Mongolian-born yokozuna Hakuho.
Newspapers and television covered Kisenosato exhaustively, tracing his rise from rural Ibaragi, just north of Tokyo, to his promotion ceremony, which due to the huge interest was held at a hotel instead of the sumo "stable" where he lives and trains, as would be traditional.
"Sumo is a Japanese tradition, and many citizens were waiting in great anticipation for a Japanese-born grand champion. This achievement will definitely lead to bigger excitement within the sumo sport," Japanese Deputy Cabinet Secretary, Koichi Hagiuda said.
On the streets near the Ryogoku Kokugikan, the main sumo stadium in Tokyo, residents were surprised and happy.
"When I was little, there were Japanese grand champions and then there was a gap for a while, so I am really glad this happened," said 41-year old Yosuke Akatsuka.
There are six divisions in sumo, with wrestlers entering the lowest "jonokuchi" division to work their way up to yokozuna - the pinnacle of the ranking system.
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