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Akebono Taro: The sumo icon died of heart failure

Akebono Taro: The sumo icon died of heart failure

Akebono Taro has died. The mighty sumo wrestler was the first non-Japanese to become a grandmaster. Songs have even been written about his story. Now Japan is mourning its sumo icon.

This article first appeared at ntv.de

Japan mourns the death of an icon of sumo wrestling: Akebono, the first foreign-born sumo grandmaster (yokozuna), is dead. “It is with great sadness that we announce that Akebono Taro died in a hospital near Tokyo earlier this month died of heart failure,” the family said in a statement. Akebono was 54 years old.

Born Chad Rowan in Hawaii in 1969, Akebono rose to become one of the most successful sumo wrestlers in the 1990s. In 1988 Rowan moved to Japan to become a sumo wrestler – and to go through the tough school of the traditional sport. “Sumo is a sport where you live the sport… it’s not like baseball,” he once said, adding that at first he cried almost every night. He did not speak Japanese at the beginning of his training as a sumo fighter.

Akebono Taro becomes a sumo icon

In 1993, the athlete, who is over two meters tall and weighs around 230 kilograms, was named the 64th Yokozuna in history, and three years later Akebono received Japanese citizenship. In 2001, Akebono ended his active career, in which he won eleven major tournaments.

After his sumo career, Akebono turned to K-1 and wrestling. “His fights and his personality captivated many fans,” said the wrestling association All Japan Pro-Wrestling in an initial statement on the death of the popular athlete. He had his last wrestling match on April 11, 2017, after which he had to end his career due to health problems.

“Champions, heroes for young and old”

The giant Akebono was also honored from politics: he was “deeply saddened to learn of Akebono’s death,” wrote the US Ambassador to Japan, Rahm Emanuel. He said he was “deeply saddened” to learn of Akebono’s death and called him “a giant in the world of sumo” and “a bridge between the United States and Japan. He opened the door for other foreign wrestlers to compete in the sport to be succesfull.”

Israel Kamakawiwoʻole, who died in 1997 and was then and now Hawaii’s most popular musician, sang about Akebono and his colleagues Musashimaru and Konishiki, also from Hawaii, in his song “Tengoku Kara Kaminari (Gentle Giants)”: “They traveled a thousand miles away. Sometimes lonely, far away from the family. Everyone has realized a dream that seemed impossible,” sings Israel Kamakawiwoʻole. “They wrote history, they were heard all over the world. On the radio, television and magazines. Let’s celebrate and honor these great men. These are the champions, heroes for young and old.” Akebono is survived by his wife, daughter and two sons.

Source: Stern

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