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Akebono Calls it Quits

Date Posted: 2001-01-26

Yokozuna Akebono, 31, sumo's first foreign-born grand champion, said Monday at a meeting with Japan Sumo Association Chairman Tokitsukaze, that he will retire from the ring. Akebono and his stablemaster Azumazeki had called on the Sumo Association chairman to discuss the future of the yokozuna, who has been sidelined repeatedly with knee and other injuries.

Rumors of his retirement had been circulating since he announced earlier in the month that he would sit out the New Year Grand Sumo Tournament that ended Sunday. Akebono's decision to retire also comes as a surprise since he had wrestled in all six major tournaments in 2000 for the first time in seven years and earned his 10th and 11th career championships.

The 203 cm tall 233kg wrestler has suffered from pain in his knees throughout his career. Having retired from the ring once because of a hernia, he started again in 1988 and reached the highest rank of the sport five years later. He became a Japanese citizen in 1996.

ďI have had very special experiences with sumo for which Iím very grateful. I appreciate my fellow wrestlers and my fansí support. It is difficult to become yokozuna, but it is even far more difficult to stay one. Iíve achieved everything I could, and now is the time to retire,Ē Akebono said at a press conference after his meeting with the Sumo Association Chairman.

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