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28-year-old sumo wrestler dies after coronavirus infection

Sumo westler Shobushi is pictured on Feb. 11, 2018. (Kyodo)

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- A 28-year-old sumo wrestler from the sport's fourth-highest division died early Wednesday morning due to multiple organ failure caused by the novel coronavirus, the Japan Sumo Association said.

    Shobushi, whose real name was Kiyotaka Suetake, is the first sumo wrestler to die from the pneumonia-causing virus. He is also thought to be the first person in their 20s to die from the virus in Japan.

    According to the JSA, Shobushi, who suffered from diabetes, recorded a fever of about 38 C on April 4. His Takadagawa stablemaster and others contacted hospitals and local health centers but were unable to find a facility able to take in the wrestler.

    After coughing up blood, Shobushi was finally admitted to a university hospital on April 8 and transferred to a different facility the following day.

    The Yamanashi Prefecture native became the first sumo wrestler to test positive for the virus on April 10. His condition worsened on April 19 and he was treated at an intensive care unit at a hospital in Tokyo.

    "I can only imagine how hard it must have been, battling illness for over a month, but like a wrestler he endured it bravely and fought the disease until the end," JSA Chairman Hakkaku said. "I just want him to rest peacefully now."

    Shobushi made his professional debut in 2007 out of the Takadagawa stable and reached the No. 11 rank in the sandanme division.

    The Takadagawa stablemaster and Shobushi's stablemate Hakuyozan also tested positive for the coronavirus but both have already been discharged from hospital.

    Later Wednesday, the JSA announced it would carry out antibody tests to check for a history of coronavirus infection for association members who want to be examined.

    The testing, expected to be completed in about a month, will give the JSA a general idea of infection within the association. Using that information and guidance from experts, the association can adopt countermeasures as it seeks to hold tournaments in the future.

    The Summer Grand Sumo Tournament scheduled to take place from May 24 to June 7 at Tokyo's Ryogoku Kokugikan was cancelled earlier this month in order to slow the spread of the virus.

    The Nagoya Grand Tournament, set to start on July 19, has been moved to Tokyo, where the JSA is looking to hold it behind closed doors.

    In response to the coronavirus outbreak, the sport's most recent event -- the Spring Grand Sumo Tournament at Edion Arena Osaka in March -- was the first in history to be held without spectators.

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