They have a real funny way of showing their love, especially in this sport. The way they think is if they pick on you and beat you up, that is the way they show their love for you. I think that is really fucked up. - Akebono
Akebono Taro is the first gaijin
to achieve the sumo
rank of yokozuna
. He was born on May 8, 1969 in Hawaii
as Chad Rowan
, and was discovered early on by fellow Hawaiian rikishi Takamiyama
, joining the stable
in 1988. Within two years, he had achieved the makuuchi
division, and in 1992 became ozeki
, tying Konishiki Yasokichi
as the highest-ranked foreign sumotori
in history. He shattered Konishiki's record after the January 1993 tournament when he became yokozuna.
At 515 pounds and 6'9" tall, Akebono cast a huge presence in the ring and was able to win six yusho between 1992 and 1994, but his size eventually took its toll on his health. In 1994, he had to withdraw from the summer basho to have operations on both knees, and he missed several tournaments early in 1999 as well. His last tournament was in November 2001: he retired in September 2001, in a special ceremony at the Kokugikan in Tokyo, with a career record of 654 wins, 232 losses, and 181 absences, two Fighting Spirit Awards, and four Outstanding Performance Awards.
After retiring, Akebono decided to keep his Japanese citizenship, stay in Japan, and become an oyakata. His stable produced the "Three Young Turks of Sumo" in 2002: Tochiazuma, Chiyotaikai, and Kotomitsuki. He lives on Yokota Air Base with his wife.