Winning 1,048 sumo matches and breaking the record for most career wins is an incredible feat. And yokozuna Hakuho has managed to accomplish it.
Even before his latest achievement, Hakuho had already broken multiple records. He has clinched the championship as a top-division sumo wrestler 38 times, and as yokozuna, has set a record of 760 wins. He has also been the winningest sumo wrestler throughout the year's six professional sumo tournaments a record nine times.
Despite the remarkable records that Hakuho has already set, his latest, which took him over 16 years to achieve, is especially significant. Of Hakuho's 1,048 wins, he has won 954 of them as a sumo wrestler in the top division. Ever since he entered the top division in the 2004 Summer Grand Sumo Tournament, three years after he first stepped into the ring as a non-ranked sumo wrestler in the 2001 Spring Grand Sumo Tournament, he has never dipped into a lower division.
Kaio, who was the previous career wins record holder, won 879 bouts of his 1,047 total wins in the top division. As for the late Chiyonofuji, who holds the record for the third most career wins at 1,045, he won 807 in the top division. This makes Hakuho the only person to have ever won more than 900 matches in the top division. It's something that could only be accomplished because he has remained in the top division for a long time and has, at the same time, stayed strong.
When Hakuho first came to Japan at age 15, he was 175 centimeters tall and weighed less than 70 kilograms. Sumo stables were hesitant to take him in because of his small size, and when a stable finally did decide to accept him, Hakuho's tourist visa was just about to expire. Who then could've imagined that a teenager that size would one day become an esteemed yokozuna?
Ever since his early days at the sumo stable, Hakuho would go to the training room by himself even on his days off, and repeat basic movements such as stomping and shuffling, over and over again. The steady but dedicated efforts are what contributed to Hakuho's amazing records.
Following the 2010 retirement of compatriot and fellow yokozuna Asashoryu, Hakuho was the lone yokozuna for 15 grand sumo tournaments. In 2011, when a match-fixing scandal took the sumo world by storm, Hakuho won his seventh consecutive championship -- a record he shared with Asashoryu. As the sumo world was shaken to its core, Hakuho defended the sport with his spectacular performance as yokozuna, a position that puts one's sumo career in constant danger of ending unless one continues to win.
In recent years, Hakuho has been prone to injuries and has sat out an increasing number of tournaments. Yet he continues to win using wide range of tricks. Even the jinx that yokozuna who adopt the "shiranui" style in their ring-entering ceremony have short careers has been proven wrong by Hakuho.
Hakuho's contributions are not limited to what he does at grand sumo tournaments. He hosts the annual Hakuho Cup, a friendly sumo tournament in which approximately 1,000 boys from Japan and around the world participate. It is one of the ways the yokozuna does his part in expanding the sumo population.
He says his dream is to one day have a sumo stable in Tokyo's ritzy Ginza district, which sees many tourists from abroad. We can guess that his wish is to expose people from all over the world to sumo.
With the naming of Kisenosato as yokozuna earlier this year, in addition to Hakuho's major achievements, the popularity of sumo, which had at one point reached an all-time low, has bounced back. Our hope is that Hakuho will continue to guide the sumo world toward a bright future.