Hakuho M.Davaajargal leads march of new Mongolian warriors
A State Honored Sportsman of Mongolia and professional sumo wrestler Yokozuna “Hakuho” M.Davaajargal won the Emperor’s Cup at the final day of the Hatsu basho concluded on Sunday.
He turned, tossed the granules high into the air and made his way back towards the center of the dohyo (ring), slapping his thighs and pumping himself up as he completed a centuries-old pre-bout ritual.
The 29-year-old Hakuho entered the day with a perfect 12-0 record and a two-win cushion over ozeki Kisenosato and yokozuna Harumafuji. Harumafuji fell in the day’s penultimate bout with rival yokozuna Kakuryu, while Hakuho defeated Kisenosato in the finale to wrap up his fifth straight championship.
Opposite the Mongolian-born yokozuna (grand champion) stood, somewhat fittingly, Japan's top-ranked wrestler Kisenosato, the last barrier between Hakuho and a history-making triumph.
Before a packed house at Tokyo’s Ryogoku Kokugikan that was tense with anticipation, Hakuho and Kisenosato gave the audience an encore after their first attempt was ruled a draw.
Seconds later, Hakuho fended off his opponent's initial barrage of slaps and pushes before planting his feet, seizing the momentum and forcefully marching Kisenosato out of the ring for his 13th straight victory in the New Year Tournament.
Haukho allowed himself a smile and nodded knowingly. His 33rd Emperor's Cup was won with two days to spare, sumo's chronicles had been rewritten and his quest to surpass legend Taiho's all-time tournament victories record was complete.
The 29-year-old's landmark triumph on Friday evening was also the starkest reminder yet that the most Japanese of sports had become the domain of Mongolian wrestlers both in the ring and now the history books.
Sumo had been practiced by only Japanese competitors from its first organized basho (tournament) in the 17th century until a little more than a hundred years ago, when foreign-born wrestlers began to participate.
The first wave of overseas powers had a distinctly Polynesian flavor with Takamiyama laying down a marker for Hawaiian-born wrestlers in the late 1960s, before Konishiki rose to prominence two decades later and Akebono became the first foreign yokozuna in 1993.
As champion, Hakuho will speak after Sunday’s final day of action, but said he will need the time between now and then to reflect on his achievement.
Compared with the first effort, the rematch was a calm affair in which the yokozuna awaited his opponent’s charge before wrestling him out after a brief struggle. Kisenosato put up a fight but was no match for the Mongolian master when his eye was on the historic mark and was shoved out.
It was a study in contrast from the yokozuna’s first attempt to rewrite the record book.
The first time, Hakuho thundered Kisenosato out of the ring with a fearsome purpose. But the same energy that swept Kisenosato out, carried the yokozuna along with him, and the ringside judges ordered a rematch. Hakuho improved to 38-11 in his career against the ozeki.
“Nobody can touch Hakuho, so it’s only natural that he win by a good margin,” said Japan Sumo Association chairman Kitanoumi.
“Hakuho is not a yokozuna who is at the end of the road. I’d like to see him go for 40 titles. If he keeps going the way he is, that’s a possibility.”