[QODLink]
2013

Sumo champ optimistic about sport's future

Newly anointed sumo grand champion Harumafuji believes ancient Japanese sport is shaking off its scandal-hit reputation.
Last Modified: 18 Feb 2013 14:53
The sport of sumo has been tainted in recent years by allegations of match-fixing, drug use and bullying [EPA]

Newly-crowned sumo grand champion Harumafuji said on Monday he sees a good future for the ancient but scandal-tainted Japanese sport as well as for his own career as a top fighter.

Harumafuji was promoted last year to become sumo's first new grand champion for five years.

He is the third Mongolian in succession to reach the sport's top rank, or yokozuna.

The 28-year-old said he adheres to a strict training regimen not only to build up his strength but also to become an admired yokozuna who can give inspiration and hope to his audience.

"Scandals could hit any world. You can only work from scratch to win back the heart of fans," he told the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Japan.

Tainted image

Sumo is gradually emerging from a series of scandals that have tainted its centuries-old image. Match-fixing, drug use and bullying allegations have eroded its popularity, although it still has a huge following.

To the disappointment of many of his fans, Harumafuji - whose real name is Davaanyam Byambadorj - ended his first regular 15-day "basho" tournament as a yokozuna in November with just nine wins and six losses.

Sumo advisers criticised him as unsuitable for the rank.

But the grand champion swept to an impressive victory in the latest tournament in January, winning all 15 bouts.

"I have a good future ahead of me," said Harumafuji, clad in a grey silk kimono with his topknot relaxed at a slant - the style for casual occasions rather than ring appearances.

He said his tough training schedule involving "lots of sweat and tears" never let him down when he got in the ring.

"I think you can become (the second-ranked) Ozeki if you work as hard as if you could die (in training)," Harumafuji said.

"But I think you have to be destined, on top of making the hard effort, to become a yokozuna."

Harumafuji, a relative lightweight at only 293 pounds, became the 70th grand champion since the first was declared in the 17th century. He is only the fifth foreigner to hold the title.

Japanese sumo fighters have struggled to maintain standards in recent years, with many promising potential wrestlers shunning the rigorous training or being lured away by more lucrative sports.

406

Source:
AFP
Topics in this article
People
Organisation
Featured on Al Jazeera
'Justice for All' demonstrations swell across the US over the deaths of African Americans in police encounters.
Six former Guantanamo detainees are now free in Uruguay with some hailing the decision to grant them asylum.
Disproportionately high number of Aboriginal people in prison highlights inequality and marginalisation, critics say.
Nearly half of Canadians have suffered inappropriate advances on the job - and the political arena is no exception.
Error processing SSI file
Featured
Women's rights activists are demanding change after Hanna Lalango, 16, was gang-raped on a bus and left for dead.
Buried in Sweden's northern forest, Sorsele has welcomed many unaccompanied kids who help stabilise a town exodus.
A look at the changing face of North Korea, three years after the death of 'Dear Leader'.
While some fear a Muslim backlash after café killings, solidarity instead appears to be the order of the day.
Victims spared by the deadly disease are reporting blindness and other unexpected post-Ebola health issues.