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The Journal Gazette

Saturday, June 06, 2009 10:40 am

Jesse Takamiyama retires from sumo

The Associated Press

Hawaiian wrestler and trainer Jesse Takamiyama retired from sumo wrestling on Saturday after a 45-year career in Japan's ancient sport.

Takamiyama, also known as Jesse Kuhaulua, became the first foreign-born wrestler to win the top division championship in 1972. He was also the first foreign-born wrestler to take charge of a training stable, having been head coach of the Azumazeki stable he founded in 1986.

"Today, I'm filled with both happiness and sadness," said Takamiyama, displaying a congratulatory letter from President Barack Obama during a news conference in Tokyo. "I'm sad to be leaving sumo but thrilled to get this letter from the President."

Takamiyama made his professional debut in March 1964 and quickly moved up the ranks. His highest rank was sekiwake, which is the third highest in the elite division behind yokozuna and ozeki.

His exceptionally long top division career from 1968 to 1984 paved the way for other Hawaiians such as grand champion Akebono and ozeki Konishiki.

Takamiyama, who turns 65 on June 16, took Japanese citizenship in 1980 and opened his own training stable, becoming the first and so far only foreign born former wrestler to do so.

Under Takamiyama's tutelage, Akebono became the stable's first wrestler in 1990 and the first foreign born grand champion in 1993.