Since September 2018, there are officially no Russians in professional sumo.
Futagoyama stable’s Roga was born and raised in Russia’s Tuva Republic, and considers himself Russian, but is listed by the Japan Sumo Association as coming from Mongolia (to where he moved at age 14.)
It’s a far cry from 13 years ago when there were five rikishi hailing from the world’s largest nation.
Four of those men were natives of the tiny Republic of North Ossetia— Alania, located halfway between the Black and Caspian Seas.
Three of them, former komusubi Roho, his brother Hakurozan and longtime friend Wakanoho, were kicked out of sumo in 2008 for cannabis use.
As with several other Caucasian rikishi, Roho initially made the move to sumo when his weight increased beyond the 130 kg upper limit in wrestling.
After immediate success at the amateur level, he moved to Japan in 2002 and joined Taiho stable, run by the legendary yokozuna of the same name.
The burly Russian got off to a flying start, winning his first 19 fights and taking the championship in the two lowest divisions. He also defeated future yokozuna pair Hakuho and Harumafuji (then known as Ama) within a year of making his debut.
Roho was at the sport’s fourth-highest rank less than four years after becoming a sumo wrestler, but the remaining 30 months of his career were marked by a series of unsavory incidents.
Getting involved in angry post-bout exchanges with Chiyotaikai and Asashoryu, smashing a glass door in the dressing room, shoving cameras back into the faces of photographers and contesting a decision both in the ring and with the media afterward, all earned him a bad-boy reputation.
When the end came and Roho’s career finished in scandal, it was no huge surprise.
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