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#pounditSunday, May 26, 2024

Legendary sumo wrestler Akebono Taro dies

Akebono Taro during an interview

Legendary sumo wrestler Akebono Taro has died.

Akebono’s family shared the news on Wednesday that Akebono died recently from a heart issue. He was 54.

“It is with sadness that we announce Akebono Taro died of heart failure earlier this month while receiving care at a hospital in the Tokyo area,” the family said in a statement to The Associated Press.

In an email to the AP, Akebono’s wife Christine Rowan said that Akebono died “within the past week.” She said she did not immediately announce the news of her husband’s death because she needed to “tend to personal matters” first.

Akebono, who stood at 6-foot-8 and 514 pounds while competing, was born Chad George Ha’aheo Rowan in Honolulu, Hawaii. He moved to Tokyo, Japan in the late-1980s and became a professional sumo wrestler. Akebono was the first foreign-born sumo wrestler to achieve the level of yokozuna, which is the highest rank in the sport.

Rahm Emanuel, the United States ambassador to Japan, issued a statement on social media paying tribute to Akebono and crediting the sumo legend for strengthening the ties between Japan and Akebono’s native country.

“When Akebono became the first-ever foreign-born grand champion, sumo’s highest rank, in 1993, he opened the door for other foreign wrestlers to find success in the sport,” Emanuel wrote. “Throughout his 35 years in Japan, Akebono strengthened the cultural ties between the United States and his adopted homeland by uniting us all through sport.”

Akebono was an 11-time grand tournament winner. He retired from the sport in 2001.

In addition to his wife, Akebono leaves behind a daughter and two sons.

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