Sumo

Former ozeki great Chiyotaikai rose up sumo ladder after turning life around at early age

by John Gunning

Contributing Writer

To newer fans it may seem as if veteran Goeido has been an ozeki forever, but the Osaka native’s five years at the rank is still less than half as long as former ozeki Chiyotaikai spent in sumo’s second most prestigious spot.

Currently a sumo elder, he is also master of the powerful Kokonoe stable.

In that role, he is coach to Chiyotairyu, Chiyomaru and 21 other wrestlers — six of whom have sekitori (paid ranks) experience.

None of course compare to Chiyotaikai’s own stablemaster Chiyonofuji, who was one of just three men in sumo history to win more than 30 titles.

Chiyotaikai needed exactly that kind of strong, dominant figure in his life when he joined sumo.

The teenager with dyed hair had run with a rough gang of youths, getting into fights, sniffing glue, stealing and generally causing his widowed mother constant heartache.

Only after she exasperatedly told him she wanted to end both their lives did he pull himself together and join sumo.

Using a ring name containing characters from both Hokkaido (where he was born) and Oita (where he was raised after his father died when he was six) Chiyotaikai rose through the rankings quickly and made sekitori a couple of months after his 19th birthday.

His powerful thrusting and fantastic ring sense made him a fan favorite early on and he developed great rivalries with fellow future ozeki Kaio, Miyabiyama, Kotomitsuki and Tochiazuma.

Chiyotaikai lifted the Emperor’s Cup three times.

The second and third titles came while he was an ozeki, but despite seven career runner-up finishes he never went better than 10-5 after a championship.

A model rikishi inside and outside the ring, Chiyotaikai flashed his yankii (delinquent) roots just once — when he followed Russian Roho down off the ring after a bout and the two engaged in a stare off.