Sumo

Sumo 101: Could-have-beens

by John Gunning

Contributing Writer

Sumo has no shortage of legends.

From titanic yokozuna that dominated in the ring, to plucky underdogs that achieved far more than a lack of size would have seemed to allow, the sport has never lacked stars and celebrities.

Indeed, yokozuna Hakuho, the man leading the current tournament is arguably the greatest wrestler of all time, and has had a career that puts him in the same conversation as superstars like Michael Jordan and Wayne Gretzky.

There are countless others, though, who had talent and physicality but never made it to the mountaintop.

Whether through injury or scandal, some of those who had their career cut short, left fans wondering just what might have been.

The most obvious name that springs to mind when one thinks of wasted potential actually reached sumo’s highest rank.

Yokozuna Futahaguro, however, has the ignominious distinction of being the only grand champion (under the modern system) to end his career without lifting the Emperor’s Cup.

His enormous potential and impressive numbers saw him promoted to yokozuna at the age of 22, but his quick temper and immaturity led to a series of problems and fights, and when he shoved the stablemaster’s wife during an argument, his oyakata handed in his retirement papers.

Foreign-born rikishi Baruto and Kotooshu both reached ozeki and won a title, but had knee injuries not hampered them, a lot more could have been possible.

Russian teenager Wakanoho reached No. 1 maegashira and had a winning record in his first four top division tournaments, but a hugely promising career ended with an arrest for cannabis possession in 2008.

Daishochi, a talented Mongolian, grew tired of the constant difficulties in sumo and quit at age 20. Unlike most of the names mentioned above, he has few regrets and has built an impressive career both in amateur sumo and Hollywood, appearing in numerous feature films, TV shows and commercials.

GET THE BEST OF THE JAPAN TIMES
IN FIVE EASY PIECES WITH TAKE 5