The latest sumo sensation off Mongolia’s seemingly inexhaustible production line of talent said his inexperience had been the deciding factor in his playoff loss to yokozuna Hakuho on the final day of the Spring Grand Sumo Tournament.
Sekiwake Kakuryu, who was told that he had secured promotion to sumo’s second highest rank of ozeki before the action on March 25, had been leading the tournament with a one-win advantage over Hakuho, but then lost his matchup against Goeido and the subsequent decider against Hakuho.
“I had less experience than the yokozuna. I think that means (a tournament victory) was too soon for me,” Kakuryu said.
“(The tournament) was a great experience. I gained confidence. But I felt frustrated at myself on the last day,” he added.
The Japan Sumo Association was set to officially annouce his promotion to ozeki on March 28.
"It's my job to attract more fans (as ozeki)," Kakuryu said at a news conference on March 26.
As a child, the Mongolian wrestler idolized basketball star Michael Jordan, but had no access to high-level basketball coaching in his home country.
He said he started thinking of a future in sumo after seeing TV coverage of the success in Japan of former komusubi Kyokushuzan, who is now a member of the Mongolian parliament, and Mongolian wrestler Kyokutenho.
When Kakuryu was 14, he went to a sumo selection camp in Mongolia hosted by Japanese sumo stables. He failed to make the cut, but didn't give up. Using the connections of his father, who is a college professor, Kakuryu sent letters in Japanese to sumo magazines and other sumo-related organizations promising to do his best. One of the letters caught the attention of stablemaster Izutsu, the former sekiwake Sakahoko, who decided to accept Kakuryu into his stable.
Kakuryu has since proved his dedication.
When he came to Japan in September 2001, he weighed 65 kilograms, 10 kg less than the normal weight for newcomers. Stablemaster Izutsu said he initially considered turning Kakuryu into a hairdresser for sumo wrestlers instead. Within three months, however, Kakuryu had increased his weight to 82kg and passed the new recruits test. When he saw how happy Kakuryu was at that first success, the stablemaster said he felt obligated to train him.
Kakuryu, who at 26 will be a major draw for the Japan Sumo Association at the next tournament, now boasts an impressive 186-centimeter and 148-kg physique.
Kakuryu said he was focused on his first title: “I want to polish my technique in initial charges and try to aim for a tournament victory.”
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