Four-time makuuchi division champion Terunofuji was officially named sumo's 73rd yokozuna on Wednesday, as the Mongolian became the first wrestler in four and a half years to be promoted to the ancient sport's highest rank following an epic career comeback.
Terunofuji, who narrowly missed out on a fifth title on Sunday at the Nagoya Grand Sumo Tournament, where he finished with a 14-1 record, is the first new grand champion since Japanese-born Kisenosato in 2017.
"I will hold on to my unshakeable spirit and aim to foster greater dignity and power as a yokozuna," he said in his kojo stage speech, a custom for newly promoted wrestlers upon being officially informed of their new rank by Japan Sumo Association messengers.
In the press conference that followed the ceremony, Terunofuji, whose real name is Gantulga Ganerdene, said he gives himself a "perfect score" but that the true test starts from here.
"I want to go all out each day, have a more determined mindset in sumo and get even stronger. I have to change my ways. I have so much room for improvement. I want to understand what it means to be a yokozuna and be a role model," he said.
The JSA's board of directors, meeting in an extraordinary session, formally decided on the 29-year-old's promotion after he received unanimous support from the JSA's Yokozuna Deliberation Council on Monday.
The promotion caps an epic comeback for Terunofuji, who wrestled at the sport's second-highest rank of ozeki before injuries to both knees saw him fall into the fifth-tier jonidan division in March 2019.
He then battled back to the sport's elite makuuchi division and won his second Emperor's Cup on his July 2020 return before also claiming the title this March and May.
Terunofuji entered the Nagoya tourney needing to win his third straight championship or post a championship-caliber record in order to earn promotion. On Sunday, he squared off with yokozuna Hakuho, who was also on 14-0, to decide the tournament winner but was thrown down in the finale at Dolphins Arena.
Still, the record was enough to earn him promotion, and his stablemaster Isegahama said his rise to the top rank is well-deserved and the result of a strong work ethic.
"He did well. No matter how much we support him, he's the one who has to do the job. He worked hard day after day. I hope he keeps his head high and establishes a firm position as yokozuna," Isegahama said.© KYODO