Hakuho: the Mongolian who shattered sumo's records www.ph.news.yahoo.com
Mongolia-born Hakuho's retirement from sumo ends a career that saw him shatter just about every record in the storied Japanese sport, which gripped his imagination from childhood.
During his two decades on the dohyo -- the ring where sumo wrestlers battle -- the 36-year-old broke records for everything from number of grand tournaments won to victories in a single year.
He racked up 1,187 career wins, though one record did elude him: his 63 consecutive tournament victories are just short of the record 69 set in the 1930s.
Born Munkhbat Davaajargal, Hakuho was the son of a champion Mongolian wrestler who won his country's first Olympic medal at the 1968 Games.
The young Hakuho's father wanted his son to become a judoka, but his interests lay elsewhere.
As a youngster he devoured Japanese sumo magazines, dreaming of becoming like the powerful rikishi (sumo wrestlers) he saw in their pages.
Aged just 15, and weighing in at a paltry 62 kilogrammes, he arrived in Japan in 2000 to tread the path of his idols.
But he was turned away by most stables, known as heya. No one wanted someone "as pale and skinny as me," he recalled in his autobiography published in 2015.
Just as he was on the verge of returning to Mongolia, he managed to persuade a trainer to take him on, and in March 2001 he entered the dohyo for the first time.
His trainer gave him the name "Hakuho", the second character of which refers to a bird in Chinese mythology and was part of the name of legendary sumo wrestler Taiho, who dominated the sport in the 1960s.
Hakuho was plunged into the world of keiko, the daily morning training of sumo wrestlers. And, fortified by the traditional chanko stew of the sport, he gradually began to assume the form of a traditional wrestler.
He came to weigh in at 158 kgs, standing 1.92 metres tall, and was elevated in 2007 to sumo's top rank of yokozuna.
- Training the next generation -
For years, he had a fierce rivalry with his fellow Mongolian yokozuna Asashoryu and the pair dominated the sport for around a decade.