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Hawaiian wrestler celebrates promotion

Date Posted: 1999-06-05

Hawaiian-born sumo wrestler Musashimaru celebrated his rise to yokozuna with an official ceremony held in front of family, friends and thousands of spectators at the famed Meiji Shrine in Tokyo Saturday.

The 191 cm (6’3”) native of Oahu, Hawaii became only the 67th wrestler to reach sumo’s highest rank of yokozuna, joining fellow Hawaiian Akebono as the only two foreign-born wrestlers to reach the top echelon in Japan’s most demanding sport.

Better known to his family as Fiamalu Penitani, the 28-year-old, 223-kilogram giant had been touted as a future yokozuna after clinching his second consecutive sumo title at the Summer Grand Sumo Tournament May 23. Following the win, the Yokozuna Promotion Council, an advisory body to the Japan Sumo Association, recommended Musashimaru for promotion.

Clearly nervous during the dohyo-iri, or ring purification ceremony, a relieved Musashimaru said afterwards: "I was really happy to perform the ritual in front of all the people.”

Musashimaru won his first title in July 1994 with a 15-0 record. His first outing as yokozuna will come at the Nagoya Tournament, starting July 4.

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