Longtime maegashira Tokitenku said Monday that balancing cancer treatments and sumo wrestling proved to be too difficult.
Three days after the Japan Sumo Association announced that the 36-year-old Mongolian-born wrestler had been accepted as a sumo elder, a tearful Tokitenku talked about his decision and his career.
“The treatment dragged on and it was difficult to regain the fitness needed to engage in sumo. The only thing I could do was to accept the situation,” he told a press conference on Monday.
Tokitenku, who has been dealing with malignant lymphoma, competed in 63 grand sumo tournaments and occupied sumo’s fourth-highest rank of komusubi for three tourneys during his 13-year career. Yet, the match that sticks in his mind took place for the championship in the fourth-tier sandanme division in January 2003.
“I remember like yesterday the bout against Toyonoshima from the same stable in the playoff for sandanme,” Tokitenku said.
“As a human being, sumo made me what I am.”
Tokitenku’s illness was diagnosed last autumn and he missed the last five bashos before calling it a career. Now that his treatment by drugs and radiation has slackened, he will do what he can for the sumo association.
Stablemaster Tokitsukaze said, “I believe the treatments were really tough, but he did well.”