71st Yokozuna Kakuryu Retires, Announces Elder Name

After 5 consecutive tournaments absent due to various injuries, Yokozuna Kakuryu has decided to retire from competition. The 6 time Emperor’s Cup champion had sought a 7th before pulling out of the current Spring basho. He will remain in the sumo association, addressed as Kakuryu-oyakata.

Kakuryu, born Anand Mangaljalav in his native Mongolia, was taken in by the late Stablemaster Izutsu at age 14. Unlike many of his countrymen, Kakuryu debuted in sumo with no prior grappling experience. A slow but steady rise through the ranks proved his dedication to the sport, reaching Ozeki after 11 years, the tenth slowest rise to the rank in history.

Kakuryu vs. Kotoshogiku, Haru Basho, March 2014

Two years later, Kakuryu joined fellow Mongolians Hakuho and Harumafuji at sumo’s highest rank after winning his first top division title in March 2014. As the 71st Yokozuna, he went on to hoist five more Emperor’s Cups. Kakuryu’s sixth and final yusho came in July 2019, before the death of Izutsu-oyakata and a subsequent move to Michinoku Stable that September.

Various injuries throughout his career culminated in his recent string of withdrawals alongside Yokozuna Hakuho. The two of them received a warning from the Yokozuna Deliberation Council in November of last year, but both had resolved to continue in competition, each hoping for one last chance to make sparks fly.

After withdrawing from Haru Basho on day 3 due to an exacerbated knee injury, Hakuho announced he will aim to make his final Yokozuna showing in July. Kakuryu, on the other hand, pulled out before the current tournament began, despite obliterating Komusubi Mitakeumi in training just days prior. His reason this time was a thigh injury. Dispelling rumors of this being the last straw — his future as a coach now taken care of with recent citizenship after all — Kakuryu expressed a will to continue fighting.

But then on the 24th, Kakuryu unexpectedly (but not surprisingly) made public his decision to retire. Like former Yokozuna Takanohana, Kakuryu will turn his shikona into an elder name, to be addressed as Kakuryu-oyakata.

Morning training at Michinoku Stable

Michinoku stablemate, M4 Kiribayama told reporters he’d heard no talk of Kakuryu’s retirement until he woke up from an afternoon nap on Wednesday.

“I saw the news. It’s hard to hear,” he commented. “I’ve become this strong thanks to having a Yokozuna’s chest for charging practice. He did it for our stable and for me. He was a kind Yokozuna.”

Kakuryu training with Ichinojo at a tour in 2014

Kakuryu had made a similar impact even on rikishi he did not regularly practice with. Meisei of Tatsunami-beya in particular recounted his one and only professional fight against the Yokozuna; a loss by yorikiri on day 9 of the 2019 Nagoya Basho.

“I always thought, ‘next time,’ after fighting him once,” said Meisei, disappointed to lose the opportunity for a rematch. “He was the kind of Yokozuna to always be offering advice and encouragement on provincial tours,” he said, remembering Kakuryu’s warm disposition.

Kakuryu vs. Meisei, Nagoya Basho, July 2019

Sumo association chairman Hakkaku weighed in. “He did well, didn’t he. He made a great effort to continue wrestling until the end,” said Hakkaku, “And it’s unfortunate that he couldn’t accomplish that due to his physical condition. He was a truly honorable Yokozuna, having persevered through injury after injury.”

As for Kakuryu’s career change, “I want him to study well and raise good wrestlers,” said the chairman, “(Study) because a Yokozuna and an oyakata are different things.”

Kakuryu Rikisaburo, the “Crane Dragon,” finishes out his 19 year career with a record of 785 wins, 497 losses, 232 absences, 6 top division titles, 8 times runner-up, 7 Technique prizes, 2 Outstanding Performance prizes, and 41 tournaments ranked at Yokozuna — the 10th longest Yokozuna reign in sumo history. He is married to Dashnyam Munkhzaya, a Mongolian girl, and the two have had three children together.

Sources: Nikkan Sports | The Japan Times

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