First COVID Death in Sumo

The unnamed lower division wrestler who became the first case of coronavirus within sumo has died. On May 13th, 28 year old fourth division wrestler Shobushi of Takadagawa-beya was pronounced dead after presenting with pneumonia and multiple organ failure. He is the first sumo wrestler, and in fact, the first professional Japanese athlete to die by the virus. It is also believed that there have been no prior COVID deaths among people in their 20s in Japan.

Small for a rikishi but strong, 165cm Shobushi (real name: Suetake Kiyotaka) entered Takadagawa stable right after middle school, and Haru 2007 was his first professional tournament. He reached his highest rank of East Sandanme 11 in 2017. The Yamanashi local was known to be a cheerful character, often entertaining the fans with choreographed “comic sumo” at provincial tours.

Shobushi’s symptoms began early last month, and after being admitted to a Tokyo hospital, he became the first confirmed case of COVID-19 within professional sumo. Not much was reported on his status or condition in the meantime, his identity and stable being kept confidential the whole time, even when the news came out about senior stablemate Hakuyozan and stablemaster Takadagawa contracting the virus.

On April 19th, his condition worsened and he was transferred to intensive care. Then at 12:30am this Wednesday, a month after taking a PCR test, Shobushi was gone. Sumo association chairman Hakkaku gave his condolences:

“On receiving this news, we the association wish to express our deepest sympathy. To everyone in his family now morning his passing, we cannot find adequate words of consolation. A month long fight against this virus must have been agonizing, but he persevered with the steadfastness of a rikishi. He fought the battle to the very end. May he rest in peace. To everyone risking their lives in the medical institutions, and those professionals who have passed, we extend our profound gratitude.”


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