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John Gunning

For John Gunning's latest contributions to The Japan Times, see below:

Kokkai helped European rikishi arrive in sumo world

Sumo Jan 19, 2020

Kokkai helped European rikishi arrive in sumo world

The first rikishi whose place of origin was listed as somewhere outside Japan was Hiraga, who joined professional sumo in 1934. Three decades later, Jesse Kuhaulua became the first wrestler of non-Japanese descent in ōzumō (professional sumo). It took almost another half-century for the first European ...

Yama succeeds after sumo

Sumo Jan 18, 2020

Yama succeeds after sumo

Life after professional sumo (for those who don't qualify for elder status) is generally quite prosaic. The vast majority of wrestlers end up working in regular jobs. Most slim down a lot, and within five or 10 years are often indistinguishable from anyone else in ...

Former yokozuna Kitanoumi was imposing figure in sumo

Sumo | Rikishi Files Jan 17, 2020

Former yokozuna Kitanoumi was imposing figure in sumo

Intimidation factor is something that cannot be discounted when it comes to finding reasons for success in sumo. Some of the greatest yokozuna of all time struck such fear into their opponents that many bouts seemed decided before they even stepped into the ring. For an ...

Ukrainian Sergey Sokolovsky follows sumo great Taiho's career path

Sumo Jan 16, 2020

Ukrainian Sergey Sokolovsky follows sumo great Taiho's career path

Sergey Sokolovsky recently took the new recruit exam and, when he makes his competitive debut in March, the 22-year-old will become the first-ever Ukrainian in professional sumo. He won't be the first rikishi with a connection to the eastern European nation, however. The father of yokozuna ...

Tochiazuma's bloody rivalry with Asashoryu a spectacle

Sumo Jan 15, 2020

Tochiazuma's bloody rivalry with Asashoryu a spectacle

In terms of sumo's vintage years, 1976 was one of the best. The bumper crop included three-time champion Chiyotaikai, fellow ozeki Kotomitsuki (also a title winner), long time sanyaku (the three ranks below yokozuna) occupant Wakanosato and several other top-division stalwarts. A third ozeki, Tochiazuma, was ...

Kisenosato is gone, but his impact lives on

Sumo Jan 14, 2020

Kisenosato is gone, but his impact lives on

The current boom in sumo popularity is a product of many factors. Increased exposure through various media channels is one reason, as is the fact that a host of camera-friendly up-and-coming wrestlers rose to prominence at roughly the same time. The No. 1 cause of the ...

Technical acumen couldn't get Kotomitsuki over hump

Sumo Jan 13, 2020

Technical acumen couldn't get Kotomitsuki over hump

The three pillars of sumo are shin-gi-tai, which translate as heart-technique-physique. Heart is the most important as a strong fighting spirit can make up for deficiencies in the other areas. Sheer size or wide-ranging technical abilities on their own can get you pretty far in sumo, ...

American-born Akebono blazed path to pinnacle of sumo

Sumo Jan 12, 2020

American-born Akebono blazed path to pinnacle of sumo

Rowan, an anglicization of the Irish O Ruadhain, isn't a name widely found in sport. Indeed, apart from a South African cricketer active from the 1930s to 1950s, you'd be hard pressed to find any noteworthy athletes with the name. A few journeymen soccer and baseball ...

New Year Basho provides intriguing mix of storylines

Sumo Jan 9, 2020

New Year Basho provides intriguing mix of storylines

Every sumo tournament contains a myriad of storylines. One of the most fascinating aspects of the sport is the fact that the kachikoshi/makekoshi delineation of winning and losing records determines both the starting positions for the following meet and the lifestyle of the wrestlers. In sports ...