[ SUMO ]

Musashimaru won 12 titles, sixth on the career list, and was promoted to yokozuna, the highest rank, in 1999.


The Waianae alumnus has
won more matches in his career
than all except five other sumotori

FUKUOKA, Japan >> Grand champion Musashimaru, the most successful foreign-born wrestler in sumo, has decided to retire after struggling unsuccessfully for two years with a wrist injury, officials said yesterday.

The yokozuna, a Waianae High School alumnus who was the second foreign wrestler to reach sumo's highest rank, managed only three wins against four losses in the current 15-day Kyushu Grand Sumo Tournament in southern Japan.

Musashimaru missed all or parts of the previous six tournaments due to the wrist injury and has not looked anywhere near his top form.

The 32-year-old wrestler decided to call it quits after he suffered his fourth loss yesterday and realized he was no longer capable of performing at his former level, his stablemaster, Musashigawa, said.

"I think he has no regrets," said Musashigawa, himself a former yokozuna. "He gave everything he had."

Musashimaru was scheduled to formally announce his retirement today at a news conference.

The chairman of the Japan Sumo Association, Kitanoumi, described the decision as something that "can't be helped."

"He came into this tournament determined to do his best," said Kitanoumi. "I believe he made up his mind after sufficient reflection."

The title of yokozuna is more than a sports achievement -- it is considered a mark of honor, and its holders are held up to very high standards. Four losses in Kyushu made it difficult for Musashimaru to continue.

"I really respect him," said Konishiki, a Hawaii-born wrestler who helped pave the way for foreign-born wrestlers like Musashimaru. "He should be proud of everything he's accomplished."

Musashimaru's departure leaves the sport with only one grand champion, Mongolian Asashoryu.

Born Fiamalu Penitani, Musashimaru joined sumo as a new wrestler at the age of 18.

Following Hawaii native Akebono, who won 11 Emperor's Cups, Musashimaru attained the yokozuna rank after the Summer Grand Sumo Tournament in 1999 and has captured 12 titles, the sixth-best on the all-time list.

After breaking into sumo in 1991, Musashimaru made steady progress in moving up the ranks and was promoted to the second highest rank of ozeki in 1994.

The 521-pound Musashimaru dominated opponents with a thrusting style and a right-handed belt grip that he used to perfection.

Among his achievements were a string of 55 consecutive tournaments with eight or more wins. His last Emperor's Cup was at the 2002 Autumn Grand Sumo Tournament.

Despite his achievements on the raised ring, the soft-spoken grappler never seemed to get the respect that other yokozuna like Akebono and Takanohana had. His critics argued that many of his wins came at a time when fellow yokozuna Takanohana had run out of steam.


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