Sayonara Amerika, Sayonara Nippon


So Long, Asashoryu

Posted in Sumo by bourdaghs on the February 4th, 2010

The great Monogolian yokozuna Asashoryu has announced his retirement. Just a week after his victory in the New Years tournament gave him his 25th title and third place on the career championship record list, he stepped down to take responsibility for an ugly, but still murky, incident that took place on the sixth day of the tournament, when he got into a late-night drunken brawl that is the subject of an ongoing police investigation.

It’s an incredibly sad moment for this sumo fan. Asashoryu at his prime was one of the two or three greatest sumo wrestlers ever, combining astonishing technique with a terrifying determination to win. The look in his eyes just before a match, especially a match against a difficult opponent, was something fierce. He was also, however, always daunted by internal demons and seems to have been battling depression for the last few years, though it has never been announced as such. On top of that was the extra pressures he faced as a foreign sumo wrestler: he became the sumo wrestler the tabloids loved to hate. Early on in his career, he was able to transform that hostility into a source of energy, but lately it seems only to have worn him down.

He was clearly past his peak, and yet he is only 29 and his victory in the most recent tournament demonstrated that he still had some terrific sumo left in him. It’s an awful waste. Moreover, do you know how boring sumo is going to be without him? In terms of talent, personality, and charisma, none of the other wrestlers can touch him. So long, Asashoryu, and thanks for a truly thrilling ride over the past decade.

3 Responses to 'So Long, Asashoryu'

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  1. John said,

    on February 4th, 2010 at 10:00 pm

    I too share your sadness. And just after Uchidate’s tenure with the shingikai finally ended! The 2008 epics between Hakuho and Asashoryu (sprinkled with the glorious moments from Kotooshu and (the artist formerly known as) Ama) was some of the best sumo I’ve ever seen. All I know is that now there will be fewer mornings where I wait to read the news sites before rushing to Youtube to catch the bouts from the night before. Misunderstood or not, one of the best sumo villains of recent memory.

  2. bourdaghs said,

    on February 4th, 2010 at 10:11 pm

    Yes, it is ironic that he is retiring at the same moment as his arch-nemesis Uchidate. She made a typically inane comment about it, full of left-handed compliments to Asashoryu and expressing hopes that “foreigners” around the world will be more sensitive to their host cultures. Sumo will carry on just fine without Uchidate’s contribution, but I am afraid attendance and tv ratings are going to bottom out without Asashoryu. Sigh.

  3. John said,

    on February 5th, 2010 at 12:28 pm

    If you’re into conspiracy theories, here’s a fairly interesting take on the incident: http://d.hatena.ne.jp/dokuhebiniki/20100205/1265339307

    I guess what caught my eye though was Asashoryu’s jab at Uchidate during his press conference: 「品格、品格というけれども、勝負師としては土俵に上がると鬼にもなるものだ…」Man, I’m going to miss this guy…