Mongolian wrestler Terunofuji becomes 73rd sumo yokozuna

Four times makuuchi Division champion Terunofuji has been officially named 73rd in sumo yokozuna Wednesday, as the Mongolian became the first wrestler in four and a half years to be promoted to the sport’s highest rank after an epic career comeback.

Terunofuji, who narrowly missed a fifth title on Sunday at the Grand Sumo Tournament in Nagoya, where he finished with a 14-1 record, is the first new grand champion since Japan’s Kisenosato in 2017.

“I will keep my spirit unshakable and aim to foster greater dignity and greater power as a yokozuna,” he said in his kojo speech on stage, a custom for newly promoted wrestlers after being officially informed of their new rank by the messengers of the Japanese Sumo Association.

At the press conference following the ceremony, Terunofuji, real name Gantulga Ganerdene, said he was giving himself a “perfect score” but that the real test starts from here.

“I want to give it my all every day, to have a more determined mindset in sumo and to become even stronger. I have to change my ways. I have so much room for improvement. I want to understand what it means to be a yokozuna and to be a role model, ”he said.

Terunofuji defeats Daieisho on Day 4 of the Nagoya Grand Sumo Tournament on July 7. | KYODO

The JSA board of directors, meeting in extraordinary session, officially decided on the promotion of the 29-year-old after receiving unanimous support from the JSA deliberative board in Yokozuna on Monday.

The promotion crowns an epic comeback for Terunofuji, who struggled second in the sport of ozeki before injuries to both knees brought him down to the fifth tier. jonidan division in March 2019.

He then fought in the elite makuuchi division of the sport and won his second Emperor’s Cup upon his return in July 2020 before also claiming the title in March and May.

Terunofuji entered the Nagoya tournament with the need to win his third consecutive championship or display a championship caliber record in order to earn promotion. On Sunday, he faced yokozuna Hakuho, who was also 14-0, to decide the tournament winner but was knocked down in the final at Dolphins Arena.

Still, the record was enough to earn him a promotion, and his stable master Isegahama said his rise to the top spot is well deserved and the result of a strong work ethic.

“He did well. No matter how much we support him, he is the one who has to do the job. He worked hard day in and day out. I hope he keeps his head up and establishes a firm stance as a yokozuna, ”said Isegahama.

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Robert J. King