Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Mongol hordes finally make it to Japan

Here's a trend in globalization involving people who look a little like globes themselves: Japanese sumo wrestling is increasingly being dominated by gaijin (foreigners). Since Akebono became the first foreign born yokozuna (grandmaster) in 1993, three of five wrestlers promoted to yokozuna have been foreigners. The first gaijin champions were gigantic Hawaiians, but now they are being replaced by relatively svelte Mongolians.
Hawaiian-born yokozuna Musashimaru stepped down from the ring for the final time at the end of the November 2003 Kyushu Grand Sumo Tournament. With Musashimaru's retirement, the line of Hawaiian wrestlers that captivated sumo fans for so long and included such stars as Takamiyama, Konishiki, and Akebono has now come to an end. Just as the Hawaiian wrestlers fade, however, a new force of sumo exponents from Mongolia has come to the fore, the most prominent of which is yokozuna Asashoryu. As sumo gains greater international recognition, wrestlers from countries like Russia and Georgia are also making their presence felt.
At 235 kilograms, Hawaiian Musashimaru weighed over 200 pounds more than Mongolian Asashoryu. This year Asashoryu became the first wrestler in 18 years to win 5 out of the 6 yearly tournaments. Fellow Mongolian Hakuho is only 19 years old and looks to be the next rising star of the sport.


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