Estonian sumo wrestler Baruto won his first tournament yesterday, logging an unbeatable 13th straight victory with only two bouts left in the New Year basho.
The 27-year-old Ozeki, the second-highest ranking behind Yokozuna, whose real name is Kaido Hoovelson, floored Kotoshogiku at the tournament in Tokyo.
It was Baruto’s first victory in the traditional Japanese martial art and only the second tournament win by a European.
In 2008, Bulgarian Kotooshu — Kaloyan Stefanov Mahlyanov — was first to claim the honors for the continent in a sport increasingly dominated by non-Japanese. Baruto is the ninth foreigner to win a tournament.
“It’s been my dream to win a tournament. I now understand that you can accomplish your dream if you do your best,” Baruto said. “I got a good start to the bouts throughout the 13 days and I was able to take the upper hand. I am very grateful to my mother and wife.”
Going into the 13th day, Yokozuna Hakuho had been hot on Baruto’s heels, but a loss to Kotooshu put the reigning champion out of the race at 10-3.
Sumo is still trying to recover its popularity after its reputation took a battering over continued allegations of bout-rigging.
No active wrestler had acknowledged guilt until last year when a number of incriminating text messages surfaced as police probed another scandal involving wrestlers placing illegal baseball bets.
A total of 22 wrestlers and one stablemaster resigned in the wake of the revelations, which led to a six-month hiatus in tournaments.