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First foreign-born sumo grand champion Akebono dies at 54

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37 Comments
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Sorry to hear that. He had an amazing life.

18 ( +19 / -1 )

Only sumo wrestler I ever met. RIP Akebono.

11 ( +15 / -4 )

Only sumo wrestler I ever met. RIP Akebono.

Cool. What was he like?

-5 ( +5 / -10 )

Too young, RIP..

5 ( +10 / -5 )

RIP Champ. I cheered you on in the 1990s when I was in Japan. Akebono truly had the heart of a lion.

12 ( +15 / -3 )

Akebono truly had the heart of a lion.

He sadly died of a heart failure...

-4 ( +8 / -12 )

Wow, big news. And very sad news.

54 is no age at all, but his achievements will live on. RIP.

13 ( +15 / -2 )

With his height of over 2 meters and 11 yusho, Akebono was a giant in every sense of the word. RIP.

13 ( +14 / -1 )

The photo is Akebono beating the great 65th Yokozuna Takanohana.

10 ( +11 / -1 )

Unfortunately for sumo wrestlers is too common to develop serious health problems as soon as they retire and stop their extensive daily physical activity, for some the problems begin even when active. Much better medical support should be provided to avoid this.

7 ( +13 / -6 )

R.I.P. Chad. I had the honor to meet you and work out with you in the gym.

11 ( +11 / -0 )

Very young.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

Unfortunately for sumo wrestlers is too common to develop serious health problems as soon as they retire and stop their extensive daily physical activity, for some the problems begin even when active. Much better medical support should be provided to avoid this.

There's not much medical support can do when the wrestlers bulk up massive weight with insanely large portions of food. Big muscles but lots of fat too. It helps make you more formidable in the ring but it's really unhealthy.

Really enjoyed watching Akebono. Thanks for the memories and rest in heaven.

7 ( +9 / -2 )

Awful news. Rest in Peace to the great Hawaiian Yokozuna, Akebono.

Trailblazer and an absolute champion in and outside of the dohyō . 54 is too young. He remained a big man so his health must have suffered.

2 ( +5 / -3 )

Too young. RIP.

Japan was more insular in the 1990s and he made a positive impact in a sport where the crowd were hard to win over for foreigners. High demands are placed on all sumo wrestlers, so I hope he had a happy life in return for them.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

I would argue that Akebono was the best of that era. Sure Takanohana had more yushos, but Akebono had to go against all of them. Takanohana, Wakanohana, Takanonami, and others from the Futagoyama-beya didn't have to compete against each other, which gave them a distinct advantage. Akebono and Musashimaru wrestled all of them, as well as each other. I got to meet Akebono a long time ago. There's a picture of me with him somewhere. If it weren't for Akebono, Musashimaru, and Konishiki, I would have never gotten into sumo as much as I have. The era may have passed, but the memories remain. RIP.

10 ( +10 / -0 )

He's a legend. He, like other sumo wrestlers made sumo into an art form.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

A nice and kind man above all else whom I had the privilege to know and meet through another friend Ken Berger.

with Konishiki, who should have been the 1st foreign born Yokozuna he indeed paved the way for many others and was fighting in a period when the general quality of fighters was very high.

My condolences to his wife

8 ( +8 / -0 )

There's not much medical support can do when the wrestlers bulk up massive weight with insanely large portions of food. Big muscles but lots of fat too. It helps make you more formidable in the ring but it's really unhealthy.

To a certain degree this can be compensated with the excercise they do while active, the wrestlers are not affected by chronic disease as regular people on the same weight are.

The problem is that once they retire their physical activity drops very importantly and so they need to adjust very importantly their lifestyle and not every person can do this, specially without close support from medical professionals. For those that can (usually involving losing weight importantly and having a daily routine of excercise) living a long healthy life is not out of the question.

-1 ( +6 / -7 )

So many people dying before their time recently. R.I.P big man.

-4 ( +4 / -8 )

As a sign of honor to the great champion Yokozuna Akebono, the sumo federation should retro actively declare Konishiki a Yokozuna.

Akebono would be happy for that as he recognized that he could become , in part, Yokozuna because of Konishiki.

He was only denied the rank because he was a foreign born wrestler

1 ( +7 / -6 )

He was popular at my work in the US. We had a conference room named Akebono.

RIP

2 ( +4 / -2 )

The first of many Hawaiian rikishi was Jesse Kahauloa, who fought under the name Takamiyama during the 1960s and 70s. I vaguely recall he was somehow recruited by Takaniyama during his high school years.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

So many people dying before their time recently

Recently? Odd thing to say. We sadly all know of people through the years who have died young or in middle age - many due to chronic medical issues. This is no recent phenomenon.

Average longevity is increasing all the time.

4 ( +8 / -4 )

Not even a bit shocked, years ago I watched a TV program about Akebono about his daily lifestyle, it's shocking watching him gooble unhealthy food like there's no tomorrow.

1 ( +7 / -6 )

So shocked and saddened to learn of Akebono's passing. I was lucky enough to see him at the peak of his powers back in the 90s alongside Konishiki and Musashimaru at a Haru Basho in Osaka.

To his many fans, friends and of course his family my deepest condolences.

RIP Yokozuna and one more banzai!

6 ( +6 / -0 )

For me, that era was “the” era of sumo. hasn’t been anything like it at that level of daily competition since.

RIP big guy.

4 ( +7 / -3 )

@robertmaes

respectfully, Konishiki wasn’t even in the same league as Akebono on or off the dohyo. I had personal dealings with both men over the years and can assure you of that. Konishiki had chances to become Yokozuna but wasn’t up to the task.

2 ( +7 / -5 )

Yeah... RIP Chad/Akebono... I watched you often back in the late 80's and early 90's. Back when TV and VCR's were the only source of video entertainment.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

RIP. Akebono opened the doors to an ancient and closed sport. Sure would like to see an Amerika Zei back in te Makunouchi. I think we've had enough Mongol dominance. And issues.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

I met him several times over the years. He was always very gracious to those who approached him.

5 ( +7 / -2 )

Sumo wrestlers would not pass any health check in Japan if they weren’t sumo wrestlers. The sport has an heavy toll on wrestlers.

I do not remember if I have seen him in the past, I think he already retired when I went to watch Sumo.

Great guy. It was sad to see him doing K-1.

RIP

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Great guy. It was sad to see him doing K-1.

The K-1 bouts were not his finest hour. I heard he did that as he lost a fortune on a failed restaurant business.

A sumo great but having fitness for 20 seconds of energy isn't going to do you any good in a real fight.

54 is young for sumo, most don't make it to 70.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Sad New indeed,

Inspirational Wrestler, enjoyed watching him several times.

RIP campion.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

StrangerlandApr. 11 01:32 pm JST

Only sumo wrestler I ever met. RIP Akebono

Same here. I met him and his entourage in the bathroom of the New Sanno Hotel back in 1991. He was a pretty cool and laid-back guy from what I could tell. They even made fun of me for at first mistakenly thinking one of the guys in the entourage was him because they looked a lot alike. It was great seeing him and Musashimaru make yokozuna during the heydays of 1990s sumo with those battles between them and the Hanada brothers. RIP to one of the greats. We've lost a few these past 10 years.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

I saw him at the first Basho I went to. Well, the only one I went to (saw others on TV) but Akebono was there (before he made made Yokozuna) and he was a killer. I knew he'd be Yokozuna one day. He was a frightening rikishi. It's too bad he died. I bet people in Japan will remember him years from now, just as they remember Wakanohana and his brother Takanohana. Not all rikishi die young, so this is especially saddening.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

The “sport” should be banned, it’s a death sentence to the wrestlers.

-5 ( +0 / -5 )

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