Former Mongolian-born komusubi Tokitenku died Tuesday of malignant lymphoma, the Japan Sumo Association said. He was 37.
Tokitenku, who only retired last August and became sumo elder Magaki, competed in 63 grand sumo tournaments, including three at the fourth highest rank of komusubi, and won one Technique Prize during his 13-year career.
“I’m in my 30s too, it (his death) came too early,” his compatriot and yokozuna Hakuho said. “He was full of fight when I first faced him, I struggled to see eye to eye. I always had to be careful about his good footwork.”
“He was really strong with alcohol, too.”
Tokitenku obtained Japanese citizenship in January 2014. He was diagnosed with the illness in autumn of 2015, and missed the following five tournaments before he called it career.
He had been serving as one of stablemasters at the Tokitsukaze stable since then, but was absent from on-site duties for the November and January tourneys.
“He (Toktienku) was a very earnest, giving person,” said Tokitsukaze.
“His condition worsened during the middle of October last year. He said his back hurt, he could not move his legs freely and he became housebound. This sudden tragic news is such a shame.”
Japan Sumo Association chairman Hakkaku said, “I am so shocked by this sad news. After ending his active career he had everything to look forward to, and to pass away so young at this time must be deeply saddening. I sincerely hope he rests in peace.”