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Akebono Taro

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Yokozuna Akebono is fitted with a tsuna belt for the last time at his retirement ceremony.

Akebono Taro (曙太郎 Akebono Tarō, born May 8 1969 as Chad Haaheo Rowan) is a retired Sumo wrestler. Born in Hawaii, Akebono became the first non-Japanese wrestler ever to reach yokozuna, the highest rank in Sumo, on January 27, 1993. Akebono means "dawn" in Japanese.

Contents

Early career

Akebono entered sumo in March 1988, at the same time as Takanohana and Wakanohana who were to become his great rivals as yokozuna. This entry cohort was one of the most successful ever, producing a great Ozeki, Kaio in addition to the three yokozuna. He rose rapidly through the ranks, equalling the record for the most consecutive kachikoshi (majority of wins in a sumo championship) from debut, reaching sekiwake before suffering his first makekoshi losing record. He was promoted to Juryo in March 1990 and to Makuuchi in September of the same year.

In 1992, after a year of 8-7 or 7-8 records near the top of the makuuchi division, Akebono suddenly came alive with a 13-2 record in January of that year, narrowly missing out on the top division championship to Takanohana. A second 13-2 record two tournaments later, in May, saw him win the top division championship for the first time, and with it promotion to Ozeki. After an injury during the summer he went on to win consecutive championships in November 1992 and January 1993 to win promotion to yokozuna.

Yokozuna

Akebono was a long lived and strong yokozuna, lasting nearly eight years in the rank and winning the top division championship on a further eight occasions. His career highlights include the rare achievement of winning the top division championship in three consecutive tournaments. He also beat Takanohana and Wakanohana (brothers) in consecutive matches to win a basho when all three ended up tied at the end of the 15 day tournament. He was however quite susceptible to injury because of his height.

Akebono was one of the tallest sumo wrestlers ever, at 203 cm (6ft 8in) tall, and also one of the heaviest with a fighting weight around 235 kg. Despite having long legs, considered a disadvantage in sumo as it tends to make one top heavy and susceptible to throws, he covered for this by training exceptionally hard, and using his long reach to thrust his opponents out of the ring. In his prime, he had incredible thrusting strength and on many occasions would blast lesser wrestlers out of the dohyo (ring) in one or two strokes. His matches with Ozeki and later Yokozuna Takanohana will become legendary as more time passes. Senshuraku (last day of the basho) was always an exciting match between Akebono and Takanohana and the Sumo arena burst with excitement. But would always go immediately silent when Akebono won. Takanohana, considered one of the great Yokozuna, matched evenly with Akebono while both were in their prime, but Takanohana gained the upper hand as Akebono's injuries took their toll. The two finished with a career record against each other that is even.

In later years he also used his reach to more often grab his opponent's mawashi, or belt, and then use his weight and power to force the opponent from the ring.

Akebono was often under intense scrutiny as the first foreign born yokozuna, especially after the controversy surrounding the first foreign born Ozeki, Konishiki, who came close to Yokozuna promotion in 1992. His conscientious nature ensured that he was successful in convincing most that foreigners could have the dignity to be a Yokozuna. At the opening ceremony of the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano, a professional sumo wrestler was chosen to represent each of the competing countries and lead them into the stadium. Akebono was given the honour of representing Japan at this event.

Retirement

After winning his eleventh top division title in November 2000 he suffered another injury and, after sitting out the tournament in January 2001, he decided to retire rather than face a daunting struggle back to fighting fitness. He thus was one of only a few Yokozuna to make his final competetive appearance in the ring as a championship winner.

After his retirement he became a member (or elder) of the Japan Sumo Association as Akebono oyakata (trainer/parent) and worked with his former mentor in the Azumazeki stable. However, in 2003, he retired from sumo entirely and is currently a K-1 fighter in Japan. On December 31 2004 he fought and lost to the legendary Brazilian jujutsu specialist Royce Gracie in a K1 competition.

In March 2005, Akebono and WWE Wrestler The Big Show agreed to challenge each other to a (worked) sumo match at WrestleMania 21. Akebono defeated Big Show in that match, which lasted about a minute and a half.

Trivia

  • Pop-punk band The McRackins wrote a song about him on their album Comic Books and Bubblegum.
  • Yahoo! was initially hosted at http://akebono.stanford.edu/yahoo/ on a server named after Akebono.eo:AKEBONO Taro

it:Akebono ja:クフ王

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