JSA Chairman Kitanoumi passes away

Sad news out of the world of Sumo today, Japan Sumo Association Chairman Kitanoumi died of multiple organ failure resulting from rectal cancer Friday at a Fukuoka hospital, the JSA said. He was 62.

More information is beginning to surface about Kitanoumi’s passing. Kyodo News reports:

Kitanoumi, whose real name was Toshimitsu Obata, was transported to the hospital by ambulance Friday morning due to anemia. The chairman, who was in Fukuoka for the ongoing Kyushu Grand Sumo Tournament, was stable until taking a turn for the worse in the evening, according to the association.

"We’ve lost a big star," said sumo elder Kasugano, the former sekiwake Tochinowaka. "All of us depended on him. It’s regrettable, but we’ll just have to all pool our strengths and do our best (without him)."

Kitanoumi was promoted to yokozuna following the 1974 Nagoya Grand Sumo Tournament at the age of 21 years, two months, becoming the youngest wrestler since the start of the Showa Era in 1926 to ascend to the rank. He competed in a record 63 tournaments as a yokozuna.

"In the long history of sumo, I am the only one to keep plugging away for more than 10 years as a yokozuna. That’s something I’m proud of," he earlier said.

The Hokkaido native retired after the New Year Grand Sumo Tournament in January 1985. His 24 grand sumo tournament championships are the fifth most.

He was elected to the post of JSA chairman in February 2002, but stepped down in 2008 after two Russian wrestlers in his stable were arrested on suspicion of possessing marijuana.

Kitanoumi resigned as a member of the JSA’s executive board in April 2011 after a wrestler he trained was caught up in a match-fixing scandal, but in January 2012 he became the first two-time chairman of the sport’s governing body.

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