After years of injuries, the two behemoths Hakuho and Terunofuji both went 14-0 in the July 2021 Nagoya Grand Sumo Wrestling Tournament. The two, both undefeated and multi-time tournament champions, would face each other in this tournament final. At 36 years of age, after an exciting and quick final match, the Yokozuna Hakuho was able to defeat the younger Terunofuji. Both top sumo wrestlers competing in the final were born in Mongolia. For the past 20 years, the ancient Japanese martial art of sumo wrestling has been dominated by Mongolians.
The Mongolian sumo wrestler Hakuho, with his most recent tournament victory, now holds the record for most career championships at an amazing 45. Sumo wrestling hosts six grand tournaments (Honbasho) per year. However, Hakuho recently had to withdrawal from the six previous tournaments due to injury.
“Before the tournament, I never expected to win the championship with a record of no defeats at this age. I’m just relieved.” Hakuho said as he was receiving the Emperor’s Cup, “But with this victory, I am feeling I can fight again.” Hakuho finished July’s Honbasho going 15-0.
In that time, the younger Terunofuji would begin to win more tournaments and nearly get a promotion to Yokozuna – the highest rank a sumo wrestler can achieve. Terunofuji had won a tournament in 2015, but due to injuries would see a series of losses and be demoted to a lower division. Impressively, Terunofuji would make a huge comeback and win three more tournaments, two being in a row. If Terunofuji had remained undefeated and won this fifth tournament over Hakuho, Terunofuji would be nearly guaranteed to become a Yokozuna.
“The reason I lost was that I was not good enough,” Terunofuji, the runner-up, continued. “I did all I could. Going forward I want to get better.”
There are many benefits and prestige with becoming a Yokozuna, and it is not an easy task. Currently, in sumo wrestling, there is only one active Yokozuna, and that is Mongolia’s Hakuho. And since 1998 there has only been one Yokozuna who was from Japan.
From 2007 to 2015, a competitor from Japan did not win a single sumo wrestling tournament. In that time, there would have been 48 tournaments and nearly all the winners were from Mongolia, with some exceptions to other nations, but none from Japan.
And since 2015 the numbers have begun to improve slightly for Japan. The year 2016 would see Japanese competitors take two tournament victories. And since 2016 to today, there have been 33 tournaments and Japanese competitors have been able to capture 13 victories. However, only one Japanese sumo would be able to get a promotion to Yokozuna. (mmasucka)