Takanobori is probably the only rikishi in history recruited into sumo as a result of winning a bicycle race.
In 1926, the 18-year-old Wataru Yoshikawa was taking part in a competition in what is now Nagano Prefecture when a pedal broke on his bike.
Undeterred, he picked up the heavy steel framed bicycle, ran the rest of the way carrying it on his back, and won the race.
Word of the incredible feat reached Takasago stablemaster and the following year Wataru found himself in professional sumo.
Success was immediate and he reached the top division in just 17 tournaments from his debut without once suffering a losing record.
Despite finishing 8-3 as the No. 15 maegashira in October 1931, Takanobori was a komusubi the next time he stood on the dohyo as a result of half the rikishi in the makuuchi division quitting in the wake of the “Shunjuen Incident”
Due to his large (for the time) physique, skills on the mawashi, and place of origin, Takanobori was given the nickname “Shinshu Raiden” and expected by many to be a future ozeki or yokozuna.
Promotion to the former seemed imminent in early 1934, but a stomach ulcer forced Takanobori to miss the January tournament and a severe knee injury not long after his return put a permanent end to hopes of advancement with the veteran managing a winning record just once in his final seven meets.
After retirement, Takanobori became Oyama stablemaster and despite the tragic killing of his wife and child and two of his rikishi in the American firebombing of Tokyo, he kept going, raised an ozeki (Matsunobori) in a stable that had no practice ring, and later became a popular commentator admired for his velvet tones.
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