FUKUOKA – Yokozuna Musashimaru, the second foreign wrestler to reach sumo’s ultimate rank, decided to retire Saturday after his comeback bid at the Kyushu Grand Sumo Tournament ended in disaster.
Fukuoka Kokusai Center on Saturday. Musashimaru suffered his fourth loss and called it quits later on the day.
The Samoan-born yokozuna, whose real name is Fiamalu Penitani, has been plagued with a nagging wrist injury and had missed the better part of six straight tournaments leading to the Kyushu meet.
Nowhere near his top form and faced with the grim reality of possible retirement, Musashimaru, a 12-time Emperor’s Cup winner, decided to put his career on the line but was forced to call it quits after losing to Tosanoumi on Saturday.
“(Stablemaster) Musashigawa contacted me to tell me that Musashimaru had decided to call it a day,” Japan Sumo Association chairman Kitanoumi said.
“You could see he was struggling at this tournament but he gave it his best shot.”
Musashimaru, 32, joined sumo as a new wrestler at the 1989 autumn tourney.
Using the awesome power and rushing ability he had cultivated playing American football, Musashimaru quickly climbed the sumo ladder to become a juryo-division wrestler by the 1991 Nagoya meet.
After he was promoted to sumo’s second-highest rank of ozeki in 1994, Musashimaru continued to dominate with a relentless thrusting style and perfected a right-handed belt-gripping technique to subdue scores of opponents.
He became the second foreign wrestler after Akebono to attain yokozuna after the 1999 summer meet and later succeeded in capturing 12 Emperor’s Cup titles for sixth-best on the all-time list.
The powerhouse also had winning records, eight or more wins, in a record 55 consecutive tournaments and became the sole yokozuna competing when Takanohana took a one-year layoff from 2001 due to injury.
Musashimaru, who tipped the scales at 237 kg at one point to set a record for the heaviest yokozuna ever, claimed his last title at the 2002 Autumn Grand Sumo Tournament.
However, the burly Hawaiian grand champion later aggravated an old injury to his left wrist and though he underwent surgery, he was unable to recover fully. His bulging gut had also begun to take its toll on the lower half of his body.
Musashimaru, who took Japanese citizenship in January 1996, plans to serve as a stablemaster under his current name for the next five years in the Japan Sumo Association.
Meanwhile, it was business as usual for Mongolian yokozuna Asashoryu on Saturday at the Fukuoka Kokusai Center.
Asashoryu wasted no time in wrapping up struggling compatriot Kyokutenho (1-6) by the mawashi belt and hoisting the sekiwake out to improve to 6-1.
The Mongolian grand champion is in a group of four wrestlers one off the pace behind ozeki Tochiazuma and rank-and-filer Hokutoriki, who maintain their overnight lead with 7-0 records.
In other main bouts, ozeki Tochiazuma never let Aminishiki get close enough and throttled the third-ranked maegashira by the neck before unleashing a series of hard thrusts to shove him over the edge. Aminishiki dropped to 1-6.
Ozeki Chiyotaikai (5-2) walloped crowd favorite Takamisakari with his trademark slaps, which proved too much for the komusubi as he was sent crashing to his fourth defeat.
Ozeki Musoyama (5-2), meanwhile, made quick work of winless Iwakiyama, dispatching the komusubi with a frontal force-out for his fifth straight win.
Iwakiyama (0-7), has gotten off to an embarrassing start on his komusubi debut at the 15-day meet after posting an 11-4 record in September.
Ozeki Kaio failed to inspire his hometown crowd when he was dumped to his third loss by top maegashira Tochinonada.
Tochinonada, who has beaten two yokozuna and one ozeki, improved to 5-2.
Sekiwake Wakanosato absorbed two heavy hits from Kotomitsuki (1-6) before deploying an arm technique to flip the top maegashira to the dirt surface.
Wakanosato, who improved to 4-3, is seeking promotion to ozeki this time out.
Seventh-ranked Hokutoriki maintained his flawless 7-0 record when he sent an off-balance Takanowaka (3-4) packing with a whirlwind of slaps immediately after the face-off.
Fifth-ranked maegashira Kyokushuzan (6-1) was far too swift for Kakizoe and spun like a top before twisting out the No. 8 maegashira on the edge. Kakizoe fell to 2-5.
Mongolian Asasekiryu finally saw daybreak when he beat a backpedaling Buyuzan (2-5) to post his first victory of the tournament.