The Japan Sumo Association elevated Osunaarashi to the juryo ranks on Wednesday, making the Egyptian the first sekitori from Africa.
“To be the only one makes me happy,” said the 21-year-old Otake stable wrestler, whose real name is Abdelrahman Ahmed Shaalan.
Shaalan was introduced to the sport by a friend and was absorbed by watching video clips of former yokozuna Takanohana. Shaalan first tried his hand at sumo at the age of 15. He won a bronze medal at the 2008 world junior sumo championships.
He joined the Otake stable in October 2011. As a muslim, he fasted from dawn to dusk during the final stage of last year’s Nagoya basho, when it overlapped with Ramadan, the Islamic month of fasting.
As a novice at the stable, his duties involved cleaning toilets, but he has persevered.
“I was surprised at first, but I like sumo and I like my stablemaster,” he said in a press conference alongside his mentor, sumo elder Otake. “So, I was able to endure.”
“I aspire to become a yokozuna, so I will work harder.”