Sumo Legend Akebono Dies At 54

Akebono, the first non-Japanese Yokozuna Grand Champion sumo wrestler in 1993, has passed away at 54 following heart failure.

Akebono, otherwise known as Chad Rowan, was born in Hawaii. He is widely credited with breaking cultural barriers in the sport. He first entered sumo in 1988. In 1993, he became the 64th Yokozuna at the Grand Championships. Rowan won 11 major sumo titles. Akebono then ventured into K-1 and professional wrestling, becoming a runner-up at 13 tournaments despite his injury struggles.

He gained Japanese citizenship in 1996, and retired in 2001, later becoming a stable master. His career was remembered for his intense rivalry with the Japanese brothers Takanohana and Wakanohana, who later became Grand Champions. His career also paved the way for other foreign wrestlers to compete. Akebono leaves behind his wife, two sons, and a daughter. Tributes have poured in, with US Ambassador to Japan Rahm Emanuel feeling ‘deeply saddened.’

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