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Less than three years after knee injuries threatened to end his career, sekiwake Terunofuji capped his incredible comeback on Sunday, winning the Spring Grand Sumo Tournament for his third career title and earning re-promotion to the elite ozeki rank.

Days before the basho, it looked like the two yokozuna would be the stars of the show. Then came news that one grand champ, Kakuryu, was sitting the tourney out — again — due to injury, while the other, Hakuho, pulled out after two bouts with a knee problem. He’s now recovering after surgery.

Then came the bombshell: After missing a fifth straight basho, Kakuryu decided to call it quits. But as John Gunning notes in his look back at the Mongolian’s career, this is probably not the end of the road for Kakuryu in the sumo world, and that’s a positive for the sport.

Winner Terunofuji, Grand Sumo Spring Basho — also including candid shots and interview | JSA OFFICIAL CHANNEL
Winner Terunofuji, Grand Sumo Spring Basho — also including candid shots and interview | JSA OFFICIAL CHANNEL

Kakuryu is expected to make a fine stablemaster, and the yokozuna’s popularity within the sport and the deftness with which he navigates Japanese social mores also makes him a good bet to become the first foreign-born head of the Japan Sumo Association one day, writes Gunning.

Kakuryu’s decision came just days after news of the closure of the Azumazeki stable, the first to be opened by a foreign-born sumo elder and home to the sport’s first foreign yokozuna, Akebono. For sumo’s wider fanbase, losing the stable that did more than any other to break down boundaries and popularize sumo both locally and globally is nothing short of a tragedy, argues Gunning.

Hawaiian former rikishi Takamiyama retired in 2009, and the stable he founded was taken over by a wrestler named Shiomaru, who died two years ago aged 41. If the Shukan Bunshun magazine is to be believed, the writing may have been on the wall for the stable once former member Takamisakari then took over, as Mark Schreiber explains in this week’s Big in Japan column.

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