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The G.O.A.T of sumo wrestling, Hakuho retires from the ring

Concluding a dazzling two decade long career due to pressing knee trouble, the greatest sumo wrestler, Hakuho bids adieu to the ring.

Legendary sumo wrestler Hakuho retires

Legendary sumo wrestler Hakuho retires (Source: The Japan Times/John Gunning)


Sohinee Basu

Published: 28 Sep 2021 7:28 AM GMT

In the annals of Japanese sporting history, sumo wrestling occupies a very special place. The ancient sport that is still practised will pomp in Japan has produced several legendary sumo wrestlers and now, its greatest champion, Hakuho, at 36, has decided to exit the ring and retire from an immensely decorated career. With 45 Emperor's Cups, 16 perfect 15-0 championships, the most celebrated yokozuna (Grand Champion) had to bring his career to an end after being constantly pestered by knee injuries.

Hakuho, who is of Mongolian origin, arrived in Japan and started creating ripples in the revered circuit when he was just 15, rising to the top echelons of the sport. With a career spanning two decades, Hakuho has 1187 career wins and has over 1000 victories in the top division - a feat in which Hakuho stands unparalleled.

Hakuho receives the Emperor's Cup after winning Nagoya Basho (Source: The Japan Times/ John Gunning)

With Hakuho emptying his seat as the yokozuna, Japan will be left with Terunofuji as the lone Grand Champion. Hakuho, who played his 1000th bout in July 2020, also became Japan's longest-serving yokozuna. In a sport that is unforgiving in nature and violent, it is difficult to aspire for longevity in sumo wrestling as most sumo athletes are prone to injury and remaining at the very top for a consistent period is a daunting task but Hakuho was no ordinary champion - in Japan, he is as popular as global superstars Roger Federer, Serena Williams or the Ronaldo's and Messi's for his achievements, both on and off the ring.

Hakuho performing the ring-entering rite in 2018 (Source: EPA)

A career of 21 years however has taken a toll on the newly-anointed Japanese citizen who also runs a stable of his own for carving out more sumo wrestlers. Stables for sumo wrestling are incredibly strict and the only way to leave a stable is to leave the sport entirely. However, it is through this stable that Hakuho intends to give back to the sport that gave him so much.

Hakuho won his 45th tournament in July and revealed to the Japanese broadcaster NHK that he planned to reconsider continuing his career as sumo wrestling has been hard on his knee, making him undergo a surgery earlier this year. With a constantly bothering right knee injury, the GOAT of sumo wrestling, now 36, had no option but to leave the ring which has cemented him permanently in the sport's glorious history. As Hakuho retires, an era is also brought to an end in sumo wrestling in Japan, as the wrestler's dominant streak reaches a full stop.

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