Thu, May 31, 2007 - Page 20 News List

Hakuho hits sumo summit

, AP, TOKYO

Mongolian sumo wrestler Hakuho, center, holds up a sea bream representing good fortune during a ceremony to celebrate obtaining grand champion status, the highest rank in sumo wrestling, yesterday in Tokyo.

PHOTO: AP

Mongolian Hakuho was promoted to grand champion yesterday, becoming the fourth non-Japanese to reach sumo's highest rank.

Hakuho, whose real name is Munkhbat Davaajargal, gained promotion after sealing back-to-back Emperor's Cups and the third of his career on Saturday at the Summer Grand Sumo Tournament.

The Japan Sumo Association (JSA) finalized Hakuho's promotion yesterday.

The 22-year-old Hakuho becomes the 69th grand champion in sumo history and the first since fellow Mongolian Asashoryu was promoted after the New Year Grand Sumo Tournament in January 2003.

Hakuho is the third-youngest wrestler to reach sumo's summit. JSA chairman Kitanoumi and former great Taiho earned promotion to yokozuna when they were 21 years old.

The title of yokozuna, or grand champion, is considered a mark of honor, and its holders are held to high standards.

Japan's ancient sport hasn't had a Japanese grand champion since Takanohana retired in January 2003.

Hakuho is one of eight Mongolian wrestlers competing in sumo's elite division. He made his debut in March 2001 and was promoted to the second-highest rank of ozeki in May last year, when he won his first Emperor's Cup.

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